Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein: Direction of travel that Treasury is on will cripple institutions... we're seeking more money from Westminster

By Liam Clarke

Sinn Fein will seek more money from Westminster to cover our budgetary deficit and pay for the legacy of the past.

It will also demand that projects like the EU Maze Peace and Reconciliation Centre, which was vetoed at the last moment by the DUP last year, be restored.

The agenda was spelt out by Conor Murphy, the Newry and Armagh MP, who is one of Sinn Fein's lead negotiators, in an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Murphy is a previous Minister for Regional Development who left the Assembly in 2011 after compensation totalling £230,000 was awarded against his department in two cases of unlawful dismissal involving senior employees at Northern Ireland Water.

At the time Mr Murphy denied all wrongdoing and was fully backed by Sinn Fein.

It is understood that Martin McGuinness will lead the talks in the coming weeks, but Mr Murphy will step in when he is absent.

Party president Gerry Adams, Sean O Bradaigh and some other members of Sinn Fein's national leadership will be at hand in Stormont Castle to be consulted by the negotiators.

Mr Murphy was a Sinn Fein observer at the Conservative Party conference last month as a party representative.

He said he was shocked by the keynote speech Chancellor George Osbourne made on the economy

"The logic of what George Osborne is saying is that he is going to step up the pace of cuts over the coming years.

"We are saying very clearly that the accumulated effect of that, especially over the next four or five years, is that it will effectively cripple the public service, torpedo the Assembly's Programme for Government and our strategy to try and protect the vulnerable and front line services in particular." He hinted that Stormont could work with other devolved regions to bring change.

Asked if Sinn Fein could continue in office under a Tory Government he replied: "We want the institutions to remain. The big challenge to devolution is that you have devolved administrations in Belfast, Scotland and Wales those people are elected on a platform, they get together and agree a Programme for Government and then central Government can come in and say 'we don't care what mandate you have, we don't care what your administration's priorities are, here is what is happening because the Treasury says so'."

Sinn Fein will argue for all the parties at Stormont to take a common approach against Westminster.

He said: "We want these institutions to work - we have been here for the last 16 years working hard to make agreements, to stick to agreements, to make things work, we are committed to making the Good Friday Agreement work and making these institutions function on behalf of the people who elected us.

"On the other hand the direction of travel the Treasury and the British Government are on at the moment is going to cripple our institutions."

Asked if this meant an eventual compromise with the Government would be possible he replied: "We are well experienced in negotiations, we have been negotiating for more than 20 years so we enter into these ones with positions. We will now see what the possibility of achieving those positions and then we make an assessment at the end to see what is possible."

Story so far

Talks have started between the Executive parties with the British, Irish and US governments included in some sessions.

The agenda is wide-ranging from welfare reform and the multi-million black holes in the Executive budget to flags, parading, the past and the organisation of Stormont. Welfare reform had previously been blocked by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

This means we are running a more expensive system than Britain and the Treasury is clawing back the extra cost. It will be £114 million next year.

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