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Stormont funding package 'falls way short' - Finance Minister Conor Murphy


By Andrew Madden and Eimear McGovern

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said the financial package being offered to the Stormont Executive "falls way short" of what was expected.

It follows meetings with Secretary of State Julian Smith.

The Sinn Fein politician said the new Executive will not be sustainable without resources.

"My initial read of them is they fall way short. I wouldn't intend to accept that. The British government made commitments here as part of all the rest of us, they can't come today and congratulate us for living up to our commitments and then not live up to their own," he said.

It comes after DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she will hold Prime Minister Boris Johnson to his word on providing enough financial assistance to Northern Ireland.

There has been much speculation as to precisely how much extra funding will be provided to Northern Ireland as part of the New Decade, New Approach deal.

Mr Johnson would not give an exact figure, however he said his government was making "huge commitments" financially to Northern Ireland.

It has been suggested that at least £2 billion would been needed to fulfill the commitments detailed in the agreement.

Mrs Foster said it is up to Boris Johnson to "step up to the plate" and deliver financially.

"We've heard from the Prime Minister that he wants to support devolution and wants to make sure we have the resources available to do that," she said.

"I very much want to hold him to his word and make sure that we do have enough finances to deal with the resource pressures, particularly around public sector pay and other matters. But we also have a great deal of investment to put in in relation to infrastructure, and it's important that we do that as well.

"Some of the figures may sound big, but some of it is over a period of years, so those are the issues we finally need to settle with the Secretary of State, and that's what we are going to do.

"[Boris Johnson] must deliver. Because we have stepped up to the plate in relation to the political agreement. He put forward an agreement, he asked us to sign up to it - we all signed up to it to come into a multi-party executive - so therefore it is incumbent on the Prime Minister to step up to the plate in terms of finances."

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show on Monday morning, DUP agriculture minister Edwin Poots suggested that domestic rates may have to be increased to provide additional money and the introduction of a water charge could be possible.

The First Minister, however, dismissed this idea, stating that the introduction of a water charge "will not be on the table" as it would not have the support of the executive.

Stormont's Finance Minister Conor Murphy said the UK government needs to live up to its promises.

"They need to ante up basically, we had the political agreement which got the parties into the Executive again, the document that was produced was the two governments' document, promises of significant investment in services here was their promises, significant investment in infrastructure was their promise, so we have now costed most of that, I have put the figures directly to Boris Johnson this morning, I am going to put them to Julian Smith later on this afternoon and we'll be in touch with the Treasury as well, I hope before the week is out to talk to the minister for finance in Dublin as well," he said.

"My primary focus in the next days ahead is to secure the finances that are necessary. If we're to have good government here, it has to be one which delivers in terms of people's rights and one which delivers progressive politics but also has to be one which can actually deliver good public services and if we don't have the finances then the government can't function properly."

When pressed what that figure is, he responded: "We have worked out a figure, a ballpark figure, because some of the things are uncosted, some of them involve strategies which yet have to be developed. But we know what the figure is, the Prime Minister knows what the figure is but we need to go down, hammer that out and get the money."

Boris Johnson cautioned that the future of the institutions is "not just about money", but also about political leadership.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that we in the UK Government will now work with this revived government to ensure we deliver on that potential through better infrastructure, better education and technology," Mr Johnson told a press conference at Stormont.

"Using those three things to bring our whole UK together so all four nations benefit from the prosperity and growth we intend to deliver."

Mr Johnson also rejected the suggestion that his visit was simply a "photo opportunity or publicity stunt" and said he wanted to mark the historic return of devolution to Northern Ireland.

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