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MLAs argue over titles instead of jobs

We urged Stormont to take economic crisis seriously, but...

Published 18/02/2009

With Northern Ireland gripped by a deepening economic crisis, the Northern Ireland Assembly has responded by arguing over Martin McGuinness’ job title.



This week the Belfast Telegraph launched its ‘Let's Get Back to Work’ campaign in a bid to encourage the Assembly and Executive to set aside party rivalries and concentrate on the economic challenges facing the province.

It is hoped that the campaign will help to keep jobs creation at the top of the political agenda.

Unfortunately the appeal was not uppermost in MLAs’ minds yesterday as the job title controversy broke out in the chamber.

First Minister Peter Robinson intervened personally to protest about Ulster Unionist members describing Sinn Fein's Mr McGuinness as “joint First Minister”.

The First Minister said this was “a most serious issue” and suggested that it be looked at by the office of the Speaker William Hay.

Meanwhile it has also been revealed that the Stormont Executive is at risk of a budget cut of up to £140m as a result of a funding squeeze by the government.

Finance Minister Nigel Dodds is hoping to persuade Chancellor Alistair Darling not to extend a new cost-cutting drive to Northern Ireland. The Chancellor is proposing an additional £5bn in “efficiency savings” across Whitehall departments for 2010-11.

It is feared that a similar approach will be taken with Northern Ireland, leading to a significant reduction in the funding which the Stormont Executive expected to receive.

The Minister said: “We are undoubtedly in challenging economic times and the Executive has done much to help alleviate the impact on individuals and small businesses whilst working to stimulate the local economy.

“The swingeing cuts proposed from Whitehall, however, would have a serious impact on the work of this Executive and could have a devastating effect on front-line services.”

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