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'Little time' to save Stormont

Published 13/05/2015

Mervyn Storey says the Ulster parties face
Mervyn Storey says the Ulster parties face "very challenging" times

Politicians have a narrow window of opportunity to save the Stormont institutions, the Social Development Minister has warned.

Mervyn Storey claimed the entire Executive was on a precipice over the failure to implement controversial welfare reforms.

Firing a shot across the bows to Sinn Fein, the DUP MLA said: "We are facing very difficult and very challenging times ahead.

"We have a very short window of opportunity and it is now up to others to really step up to the plate."

Yesterday new Finance Minister Arlene Foster said a senior civil servant may have to step in to run public services if the current deadlock was not broken.

The so-called "nuclear option" could be reached by the end of next month, she said.

During a visit to a social housing development on the site of a former police station in north Belfast, Mr Storey added: "If there is no decision then I think we are facing a very, very difficult situation in terms of the budget and ultimately in terms of the future of the Assembly."

Northern Ireland faces large Treasury fines over of its refusal to implement benefits changes already established in Great Britain because republicans believe they will hurt the most needy.

Sinn Fein is seeking an additional £1.5 billion from Westminster.

However reappointed Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said no more money was available and urged rapid implementation of the pre-Christmas Stormont House Agreement.

Despite the difficulties, the DSD Minister said a resolution could be reached.

"We have found resolutions to many difficult, challenging issues in the past and I don't believe that this one is insurmountable," Mr Storey said. "My challenge to Sinn Fein is to move beyond the rhetoric; move beyond the sound-bite and actually deal with the issues.

"Instead of concentrating on very particular issues let's look at the wider picture which is about the long term sustainability of the institutions."

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