Belfast Telegraph

O'Dowd's block grant 'guess' slammed by DUP rival

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Sinn Fein has been accused of fantasy economics after a former minister 'guesstimated' Northern Ireland's block grant at less than £3bn.

The official figure is around three times more.

The DUP's David Simpson slammed Upper Bann election rival John O'Dowd for "desperately attempting to downplay the reality of how Northern Ireland benefits from being part of the UK".

The amount given to Northern Ireland in subvention - better known as the 'block grant' - was recorded as £9.2bn in the most recent official figures given for the financial year 2013-14.

Speaking on the BBC's Stephen Nolan Show yesterday, Mr O'Dowd said: "How much of that subvention actually comes onto the island of Ireland? How much of that subvention is used for other purposes which will remain in Britain?"

Pressed by Nolan, the former education minister said: "The figure that we're often told and you often quote on this show is around £10bn subvention... do I accept that the £10bn all comes here? No, I don't accept that."

Mr O'Dowd added that it wasn't possible to "get accurate information out of the Treasury in relation to the economic and taxation policies here".

Mr Simpson responded, saying: "Figures published by the Department of Finance, one headed up by a Sinn Fein minister until recently, show a fiscal gap of over £9bn. Sinn Fein cannot wish away the financial truth just because it doesn't suit their united Ireland agenda."

Asked by the Belfast Telegraph for the basis of Mr O'Dowd's figure, a spokesperson for Sinn Fein cited the party's discussion paper 'Towards a United Ireland' released in November last year.

In the document, Sinn Fein slams "over-estimates of the North's fiscal deficit" as a "political ploy aimed at closing down any debate on Irish unity", and states that Northern Ireland's block grant "could be as low as £2.7bn".

The party also claims that money counted in the expenditure for Northern Ireland is spent on Whitehall departments considered relevant to the province.

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