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Programme for Government ‘thin on detail’

By Noel McAdam

The Executive’s new Programme for Government (PfG) has been condemned for lacking details and commitments.

At his first question time since replacing Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, acting Deputy First Minister John O’Dowd said MLAs now had development of the programme in their own hands.

He also pledged that the blueprint will be made public after the next full meeting of the Executive on October 6.

The SDLP’s Dominic Bradley said there were worries that the draft PfG was largely couched in generalities.

As Mr Bradley indicated how the document contained phrases such as promising to “find new and innovative” measures, there were shouts from the unionist benches of: “How would you know?”

But the Newry and Armagh MLA went on: “Can we hope in the finalised document to see more specific aims?”

Mr O’Dowd said both he and First Minister Peter Robinson believed there was “much more work needed” to improve the current draft, which they tabled for ministers last Thursday.

What happened now, in determining the detail of the document, was very much “in your own hands”, he told Mr Bradley, with the hope that parties will bring their own proposals back by next week’s meeting.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, who had asked for an update on the PfG, said he hoped the finalised paper will contain a commitment on tackling the social cost of division.

Mr O’Dowd said that after next week’s Executive meeting the hope was to release the PfG document for consultation “as soon as possible thereafter”.

Just a week after taking up the acting Deputy First Minister office, Mr O’Dowd also revealed that an announcement is expected on whether European funding may be available for the planned conflict and resolution centre at the Maze.

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