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Ritchie: I won't be bullied in funding row

By Deborah McAleese

The current crisis within the Stormont Executive, following the Social Development Minister's controversial decision to pull funding for loyalist communities, is expected to overshadow tomorrow's full Executive meeting.

The Executive is split in the row over Margaret Ritchie's decision to stop £1.2m funding for the UDA-linked Conflict Transformation Initiative (CTI).

However, Ms Ritchie was today remaining adamant that her decision is final and says she will "not be bullied" by her colleagues in the Executive following her decision, which prompted furious criticism from Finance Minister Peter Robinson.

Mr Robinson accused her of breaking the ministerial code of office and ignoring government legal advice.

But Ms Ritchie said she had made her decision "based on the principles of upholding democracy".

The Minister's department was today reflecting on her statement and deciding on how best to bring it forward.

While the UPRG refused to make any comment, Farset Community Enterprises, who handled the CTI money, said it is considering its options on how best to challenge Ms Ritchie's decision over the funding issue.

A spokesman for Farset said: "Farset is continuing what action it can take to challenge the Minister's decision."

The group added: "We are of the opinion that a more open- minded approach would have recognised the actual achievements of the CTI in its short life to date, and taken into account its much greater potential over the three years."

Belfast Telegraph


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