Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: No more talk, it's time for action

First Minister Peter Robinson has been delivering a number of high-profile speeches recently - possibly a little early politicking in advance of next year's Assembly elections - and it is difficult to argue with his core messages.

Last night it was a double-pronged attack on Sinn Fein, blaming the party for delaying the agreement of a new budget, and directly castigating Education Minister Caitriona Ruane's attempts to end academic selection.

It is no surprise that Northern Ireland is the last of the devolved regions to draw up a budget in response to the Government's public spending review. Indeed, there appears to have been little progress towards that end, and Sinn Fein has been in the vanguard of opposition to compiling a hit list of cuts to services.

But it is not possible to continue with any stand-off. Departments need certainty on their future budgets and Mr Robinson is correct to call on all parties to devise a workable solution.

At the same time, it was encouraging to see ideas being presented to the Assembly's finance and personnel committee. These included an innovative levy on text messages, unfreezing rates, abolishing free prescriptions and giving local authorities and the Housing Executive new powers to seek funding from the money markets. Some of these ideas may not be practical or politically acceptable, but they show fresh thinking and should encourage the politicians to adopt a radical approach to the funding cuts if necessary.

Mr Robinson's call for action is laudable, but as with his earlier suggestion that segregated education is too big a drain on public funds, he must follow his speeches up with deeds.

As First Minister, Mr Robinson is in a position of responsibility and should be seen as the driving force behind new initiatives, not just the person who gives voice to them.

Otherwise it is just so much rhetoric.

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