Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Hard times a test of the Executive

Improvements to the road between Jordanstown and Carrickfergus in east Antrim is the latest project to have the shadow of the public spending axe hanging over it.

Plans to widen the road have been suggested for nearly 30 years, but there are fears it could be several more before funding becomes available.

The only certainty is that Northern Ireland is going to have to share in the spending cuts required to lower the huge UK debt. However, just what services or projects will be affected are still unclear.

Indeed, the Stormont Executive has yet to decide if it will introduce the first tranche of cuts in the current financial year or hit the public with a |double-whammy next year.

What the public expects is for Ministers to begin a serious, mature and rational debate on the issue. Sinn Fein has introduced a puerile note by |indulging in ‘blame the British’ mud-slinging.

If they would care to look across the border to the Irish Republic they would see a much worse situation.

Sinn Fein will have to face up to reality and deal with the position as befits their prominent position in the power-sharing Executive, instead of name calling.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is one man who has tried to focus both politicians and the public on the dire times ahead.

He has raised the points that need to be addressed — should water charges be introduced; how can government work more efficiently; do we need so many quangos and consultants; do we even need 108 MLAs and 11 Government departments?

Is it really too much to ask in these times of adversity that Northern Ireland’s politicians will put aside petty party differences and unite in |trying to mitigate the spending cuts? Will they work together to make the most realistic savings and not just try to protect the budgets of those ministries controlled by their own party? Could hard times be the making of the Executive?

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