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DUP reject Corbyn claim £1bn is for 'pet projects'

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has branded comments by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that the party secured £1bn from the Tory government for its "pet projects" in Northern Ireland as "very wide of the mark".

The party's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said Mr Corbyn should welcome additional funds for an area of the UK which was still feeling the social and economic effects of the Troubles.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show yesterday as Labour's conference continues in Brighton, Mr Corbyn pledged that his party would challenge Theresa May's government "all the way".

He said: "Their relationship with the DUP is a strange one, to put it mildly. £1bn given to pet projects of the DUP in Northern Ireland and then the DUP presumably supposed to be their close allies in Parliament."

Hitting back at the Labour leader's comments, Mr Dodds said: "Jeremy Corbyn's 'pet-projects' remark is very wide of the mark. Whilst he is politically opposed to the government, he should welcome the investment in Northern Ireland, which will benefit everyone. We have some of the highest levels of mental ill-health in the UK. Seeking to address that should not be turned into a political football."

Mr Dodds claimed his party had used its influence to deliver for everyone in Northern Ireland and, by securing the triple lock on pensions, to assist older people here and in Britain.

"The guarantees on farm incomes and for our defence needs are also major positives for people across the UK," he added.

Mr Dodds said the £1bn package agreed in the DUP's confidence and supply deal with the Tories would meet need and under-investment in Northern Ireland as a result of the Troubles.

"That money is to address pressures on our health service, educational underachievement in working class communities, improve mental ill-health and build better infrastructure for jobs and more employment.

"It is a package for everyone in Northern Ireland and for all sections of our community," he added. The DUP has vowed that the financial package is safe even if power-sharing isn't restored at Stormont. The additional funding will require a vote in Parliament and Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, had voiced unease at the Tories' deal with Arlene Foster's party.

However, earlier this month DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson moved to quash rumours that some Scottish Tory MPs may vote against the funding.

"The political reality is that our agreement is with the Conservative Party as a whole," he said. "Just as all our MPs are bound by that agreement, so are all theirs."

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