Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Executive meets to discuss Stormont deal funding offer

The Northern Ireland Executive met on Tuesday morning.
The Northern Ireland Executive met on Tuesday morning.
Gareth Cross

Gareth Cross

The Northern Ireland Executive met on Tuesday morning to discuss the UK Government's offer of financial support following the New Decade New Approach deal.

Following the meeting First Minister Arlene Foster said that the new Executive was "based on mutual respect and trust".

Mrs Foster did not directly address the financial issue, but said the five-party Executive was committed to working together for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.

"There are significant challenges ahead of us, but equally we have a real opportunity. With strong leadership and collegiate working we will make sure that our public services are transformed," the DUP leader said.

“Through this new five-party Executive based on mutual respect and trust, we can rebuild confidence in the Executive. We will do this by delivering on the things that matter to people in Northern Ireland, together.”

Sinn Fein's deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said that while changes would not happen overnight, parties were working on a sustained approach to make long-lasting changes.

“Our immediate priorities will include dealing with the issues impacting the most vulnerable. The extension of welfare reform mitigations, a plan to tackle waiting lists and the urgent publication of a Mental Health Action Plan will be among those pressing actions," the Mid Ulster MLA said.

“Politics is never easy and being in a five-party Executive comes with its own set of unique challenges. But we have one shared purpose – to improve people’s lives. We are committed to working together to deliver for all in our shared society.”

Writing in Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph, Ulster University economist Dr Esmond Birnie estimated that it would take at least £5bn to get Northern Ireland up and running again and deliver the commitments of the deal.

While it was expected Prime Minister Boris Johnson would announce £2bn in funding during a visit to Northern Ireland on Monday, the PM said the deal was "not just about money".

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said that the issue of funding from the UK Government "wasn't complete" and the offer "way short" of what was needed.

"We intend to pursue that over the next few days and coming week," the Sinn Fein MLA told reporters at Stormont on Tuesday.

Mr Murphy said the Department of Finance is working to "tie down the commitment offered from the British Government".

"We haven't managed to secure that completely yet," he admitted, but said that the UK and Irish Governments had to live up to their part of the deal.

"We're going to work that through with them and if we get the necessary finances to run decent public services then we won't be into the matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul."

DUP leader Mrs Foster said the Prime Minister must live up to financial promises made during negotiations that led to the return of power-sharing after three years.

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