Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

What will Cameron's Tory Government mean for Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland’s voters might feel an affinity with their Scottish counterparts today.

The Scots have past experience of saying no to the Conservative Party at the ballot box, only to find themselves foisted with a Tory Prime Minister after the election.

Last week, all of David Cameron's candidates were rejected at the polls here.

He's now the new occupant of 10 Downing Street and his Government will have the final say on the level of funding released to the Stormont Assembly.

Mr Cameron's foray into electoral politics here on a joint UCUNF ticket with the UUP is still fresh in people's minds. It will inevitably colour speculation about how his Government will act towards the province.

It is undoubtedly true that public spending cuts were on the way whether the Tories or Labour won the election.

But under Mr Cameron's manifesto plans, cuts are coming earlier. A big dividing line in the campaign was over the Conservative plan to make £6bn in “savings” in the UK this year.

Estimates as to how this would affect Stormont coffers varied, with £100m and £200m both quoted as what might be lost.

Whether the £6bn plan is still in place after the coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats remains to be seen.

The phrase “Tory cuts” has an

impact among those who remember the Thatcher era. That was one of the reasons why Mr Cameron's comments about the State here being “too big” caused such a fuss.

Mr Cameron's UCUNF link-up — and his repeated declarations of enthusiasm for the Union — have prompted some concern in nationalist quarters. It has been asked if he will be neutral.

The Lib Dem factor might even things out.

It seems highly likely that Cameron will follow the established policies of the Northern Ireland Office and Foreign Office, maintaining a close relationship with Dublin and do nothing that might unsettle Stormont.

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