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David Cameron tells Northern Ireland's politicians: move past the peace process

By Adrian Rutherford

David Cameron has praised the work of Northern Ireland's politicians in securing peace - but warned that the days of solving every economic problem by asking the Treasury for more money are over.

In a blunt message to MLAs, the Prime Minister also said that more work is needed to end the sectarian divisions which remain here, telling them to move beyond the peace process and help deliver a shared future.

Mr Cameron's comments came as he addressed the Assembly during a whistle-stop visit to Northern Ireland.

While acknowledging the progress which has been made, he said it was now time for parties to focus on delivering real improvements to people's lives.

"Politics here is now more stable than for over a generation," Mr Cameron said.

"But, as the institutions mature, people will look for more than survival - there is now an ever greater expectation of delivery."

In a wide-ranging address, the Prime Minister also:

e Warned Northern Ireland could no longer be reliant on central Government funding.

e Repeated his pledge not to hold any more lengthy inquiries into the past.

e And vowed that tackling terrorism remained a top priority for his Government.

Yesterday was only Mr Cameron's second visit to Northern Ireland since becoming Prime Minister, and his address to the Assembly was the first by a Conservative leader.

While outlining his commitment to the region, Mr Cameron said it did not mean "staying silent on the problems that remain", and the responsibilities on politicians here.

"As in other parts of the UK, political institutions need to deliver or they will lose popular support," he said.

"So to match expectations, politics here will need to move beyond the peace process and a focus on narrow constitutional matters to the economic and social issues that affect people in their daily lives."

Mr Cameron singled out a rise in the number of peace walls, from 37 to 48 since the St Andrews Agreement in 2006.

He said that in too many places Protestant and Catholic communities remain largely segregated - "sharing the same space but living their lives apart".

"Northern Ireland needs a genuinely shared future; not a shared out future," he added.

Mr Cameron also insisted that turning to London for cash handouts must end, adding: "The days are over when the answer to every problem is simply to ask the Treasury for more money.

"That applies here as much as it does in other parts of the UK."

The Prime Minister praised the security forces involved in fighting dissident republican violence and condemned the "vile and cowardly" murder of Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr.

"Tackling terrorism is a joint effort in which the Northern Ireland Executive has a crucial role to play," he added.

"For our part the UK Government has made countering the terrorist threat here a top priority. "

Mr Cameron said his door will remain open when needed, pointing to agreement over a financial support plan for savers in the Presbyterian Mutual Society and the swift publication of the Saville Report into Bloody Sunday.

However, the Prime Minister said that he stood by his pledge that there will be no more costly and open-ended inquiries into the past.

Earlier First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness detailed their desire to make continued progress, but added that Mr Cameron's Government had obligations which it also had to live up to.

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