Multimillion-pound funding to extend and renovate an all-Ireland autism centre is not available this year, the Republic's education minister maintained today.
The shortfall in development money for the Middletown Centre of Excellence, Co Armagh, is a pause and will be looked at again in the autumn, Batt O'Keeffe added.
Around 800 people have been trained there for dealing with vulnerable young people. The money, part of a joint north/south package, was intended for classrooms and refurbished accommodation.
Northern Ireland education minister Caitriona Ruane criticised the decision to reduce the cash ahead of a north/south meeting at the centre today.
Mr O'Keeffe said: "I share their disappointment, we are as committed to the particular project as everyone else. It is a project that is well worth developing and it is our intention to ensure it goes ahead."
Autism is a condition which can leave children withdrawn and needing extra support. The National Autism Society has warned children are slipping through the net and facing exclusion under current arrangements.
Mr O'Keeffe added: "At the minute there is a pause in funding as I don't have the necessary multi-million funds available to put it in place this year."
He said he was not going to engage in "megaphone diplomacy" between the two departments and added the content of today's discussions was confidential.
He said there had been a supplementary budget since the last time the two administrations met and added his capital allocation had been cut by 70 million euros.
"I am a realist, you are dealt a hand of cards and I have to play the cards that are given. It is a tight time for all of us financially. I can only mete out the capital budget that I have available to me," he added.
Ms Ruane said the nearest comparable centre was in North Carolina in the US.
"This is a very important project, this project must continue, this project is dealing with some of the most vulnerable children and there's avant garde (cutting edge) research here," she added.
"The government in the south of Ireland are very aware of the importance of this project, let's take it one step at a time, I hope that we can get this issue resolved."
Planning application has been granted for the border site and building work was due to go ahead next year.
The development was approved in 2002. It carries out research and training for professionals who work within the autism field, but the eventual aim had been to take children in.
The next stage of building was a residential block for assessment and therapy and employing extra staff. Existing accommodation were to be renovated and classrooms to be developed.
The Republic's Department of Education and Science has invested some £3.5 million on the Middletown Centre.