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Peace fund may help Stormont impasse, says Sinn Fein

By Michael McHugh

The Government needs to pump money into Northern Ireland if there is to be any chance of resolving the problems at Stormont, Sinn Fein has said.

Party negotiator Conor Murphy MP said London had to make a major contribution financially to a "peace investment fund", as well as honour outstanding commitments left over from the Good Friday Agreement.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are due to arrive later this week to spearhead all-party efforts to reach agreement.

As well as long-standing peace process wrangles over flags, parades and the legacy of the past, the negotiations are also trying to resolve budgetary problems.

These include the vexed issue of welfare reform, which threatens to result in widespread job losses across the public sector and dramatic cuts in spending.

"The huge budgetary problems faced by the parties here have been caused by the austerity policies of David Cameron's Tory-led government," said Mr Murphy.

"Their year-on-year cuts to the Executive's block grant have increased poverty and are having a hugely negative impact on the Executive's stability and its capacity to deliver frontline public services.

"If David Cameron is to play a constructive role in this process then he needs to deal with the major financial difficulties caused by his government's assault on the Executive's finances."

He added: "If we are to deal with the legacy of the conflict, division and segregation then the British government has to be the major contributor to a peace investment fund, with support from the Irish government, the European Union and the United States."

Alliance Party leader David Ford said this week's intensified round of talks represents an opportunity to deliver radical change.

"This week will tell whether parties want to continue with the status quo where division, tribal politics and disagreement prevents progress, or deliver a shared society where parties come together in the best interests of the public," the Stormont Justice Minister said.

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