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UUP: Budget will unravel in new Assembly

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland’s four-year Budget will “unravel” during the next Assembly, Ulster Unionists who opposed the blueprint have warned.

Party finance spokesman David McNarry admitted, however, UUP ministers will have “no choice” but to implement the spending cuts agreed in the current proposals following the Assembly’s vote in favour.

But he said individual departments will review the Budget following the election, which will then be “unravelled because it does not stand up to scrutiny”.

“We are confident we can convince the electorate we have a better way of making Stormont work.

“The DUP and Sinn Fein stand naked before the voters with neither a strategy nor a plan,” he warned yesterday.

The comments came as Ulster Unionists attempted to display a united front, but insisted they remain opposed to Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister.

Despite senior figures including deputy leader John McCallister saying they could live with Mr McGuinness in the post, Mr McNarry said it would be a bad day for unionism.

At the first party Press conference of the election campaign Mr McCallister said he and former leadership contender Basil |McCrea held talks with leader Tom Elliott.

Mr McNarry also confirmed he had apologised to the party leader after intervening live on Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan show last week arguing Mr McCallister and Mr McCrea had undermined Mr Elliott over the issue.

“The differences between me and two other colleagues have been sorted out internally.

“They probably should never have been aired externally but it has been sorted and he now leads a united party,” Mr McNarry admitted.

The prospect of Mr McGuinness becoming First Minister if Sinn Fein emerges from the election as the largest party was also “not an issue”, the party’s finance spokesman said.

But he added it “would not be the best of days” for unionism if the Sinn Fein leader were to assume the position, even though it is co-equal in terms of status and responsibility with First Minister — and Mr McGuinness has revealed he would be willing to change the title to Joint First Minister.

While the theme of the Press conference was the economy, Mr McNarry also found himself defending the decision of the party’s Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to announce the postponement of a new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin, which led to the resignation of the party’s deputy chair Terry Wright.

Mr McNarry said Mr McGimpsey had been “dealt the worst hand” of any minister in financial terms.

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