Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Executive has its priorities right

Government finances are a thing of mystery, apparently even to some of those who work within politics. Like magicians, Robinson and McGuinness have come up with £120m for education spread over the next three years, almost eradicating planned cuts in the schools' budgets for that period.

Just quite where the money has come from is unclear - although all prudent administrations have contingency funds to meet emergencies.

It may well be that other departments feel they will not spend their full allocations in this financial year - Invest NI has handed back some £21m to Stormont's central pot - and that money will be reallocated. Of course all departments will have their own reasons for not meeting planned expenditure, but this windfall suggests every departmental bid for funds in the coming financial year should be scrutinised with an even finer tooth comb than before.

However this is very good news for education. There is no doubt that many schools are in deep financial trouble and widespread rationalisation could yet happen. The fact two parallel education systems operate here is a drain on scarce resources and moves towards shared facilities must be encouraged to make maximum use of funding. That can be achieved without encroaching on the faith ethos of any school.

The award of extra funding to education is to be applauded. This is a key service in society along with health. The First and deputy First Ministers are right to give priority to these departments when extra funding becomes available, for it is on how schools and the health service perform that the power-sharing administration will largely be judged. In this financial climate the Executive must decide which services must be protected as much as possible and which will have to suffer. Quite simply there is not enough money to go around and so difficult choices have to be made.


From Belfast Telegraph