Belfast Telegraph

DUP and Sinn Fein wrangle over Northern Ireland budget

Further tensions are emerging between Sinn Fein and the DUP over crunch talks on an Assembly budget, republican sources have signalled.

After Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness sent out contradictory messages on the timing of a deal, republicans have now criticised DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.

Cross-party talks on agreeing a budget are being held behind the scenes at Stormont in the wake of the £4 billion cuts ordered by Chancellor George Osborne.

All sides predict a deal is possible, but republican sources have claimed Mr Wilson is resisting their twin-track strategy of pushing for Government concessions, while also seeking revenue raising policies at Stormont.

A republican source said: "Peter Robinson agreed to this approach.

"We have acted in good faith with the DUP. We have brought forward ideas and proposals.

"Sammy Wilson has failed to date to move off the position of implementing the cuts.

"Sinn Fein will only agree to the right budget, as any other approach will fail the community and damage prospects for the future."

This comes after First Minister Mr Robinson pointed to December 15 as a target date for a deal, but Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness said getting the deal right was more important than its timing.

Mr Robinson has said a swift deal is needed to provide sufficient time to process a draft budget and to allow departments to plan for next year and beyond.

Mr Wilson has also said ministers risk making matters worse if they delay planning for the cuts that Westminster will make in the Stormont purse over the next four years.

Both Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness, however, have publicly criticised the financial package offered in the Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

The two political leaders continue to reject Government claims that Northern Ireland got a "good deal" when compared with Westminster departments.

The two men have also accused the Government of breaking pledges in the 2006 St Andrews devolution deal to provide major funding for infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland.

But a DUP spokesman dismissed any suggestion of a late hitch in the budget discussions.

"The DUP has one approach to the budget," he said. "We are confident a budget will be put in place.

"We are not playing politics with the budget. This is too important.

"Families are struggling to pay mortgages. People are wondering if they are going to have a job after Christmas.

"Peter Robinson set out a timescale for a budget.

"No party should be playing politics."

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