Northern Ireland

Robin Swann will stay on as health minister until after Stormont budget debate

The former UUP leader’s Westminster election campaign won’t officially begin until the middle of next week

Robin Swann leaving the Clayton Hotel in Belfast after giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry
Health Minister Robin Swann. PICTURE: LIAM MVBURNEY/PA (Liam McBurney/PA)

Robin Swann is not expected to stand down as health minister until after next Tuesday’s assembly debate on the Stormont budget, The Irish News understands.

The former Ulster Unionist leader is planning to relinquish the health portfolio to contest the Westminster election in South Antrim.

Strangford MLA Mike Nesbitt has been lined up to succeed Mr Swann at the Department of Health.

Ulster Unionist Party MLA Mike Nesbitt has been widely tipped as the next health minister
Mike Nesbitt is expected to replace Robin Swann as health minister. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

UUP leader Doug Beattie has said he will be submitting a letter to the assembly speaker’s office shortly advising of the ministerial changeover.

But it is understood that the Mr Swann’s official election campaign will not begin until the middle of next week, after he has taken part in Tuesday’s scheduled debate on the budget.

Last month when Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald unveiled the draft budget, the North Antrim MLA voted against it in the executive.

He complained that his request for additional money had been rejected and that no extra funding had been earmarked for reducing waiting lists.

Mr Swann said he “could not stand over the implementation of cuts on this scale”.

On Wednesday, the Ulster Unionists called for a vote on the budget to be deferred until after the June monitoring round, when it’s been speculated that up to £200m could be reallocated.

Mr Beattie said it “would make no sense” to pass pass a budget that was “almost certain to change within weeks”.

An Ulster Unionist councillor earlier this week resigned from the party over the decision to appoint Mr Nesbitt as health minister.

Paul Michael, an Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor, said he opposed the plan because the former UUP leader admitted a breach of lockdown rules during the Covid pandemic.