Villiers issues warning as Northern Ireland budget talks stall

3 Jun 15

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has warned that public services in the province could suffer if a deal of welfare reform is not struck, derailing the £2bn Stormont House Agreement.

In a statement issued on June 2, following talks with five Northern Ireland parties, Villiers said the situation looked “increasingly grim”.

She said: “If the impasse on welfare reform is not resolved, then the whole Stormont House Agreement is in jeopardy, including the £2bn financial package and the new institutions on the past.

“We now face the real prospect of emergency budget provisions coming into operation by the end of July with a negative impact on front line public services.”

Sinn Féin blamed the impasse on the austerity imposed by the UK Conservative government.

“Sinn Féin’s primary objective is to deliver for the community and to achieve a resolution to the challenges facing the Executive,’ said leader Gerry Adams.

“However Theresa Villiers is clearly indicating that the Tory party do not want to address the key issues or even accept their role in provoking this crisis.

“She refuses to disclose the impact of a further £25bn of Tory cuts.”

The Democratic Unionist Party, however, said the time had come to bring in the welfare changes.

“The failure to implement is costing us dearly – £9.5m per month. That is £312,000 each day,” said DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds in a statement issued ahead of the talks.

“Rather than paying penalties to Westminster, people in Northern Ireland would much rather that money be spent on public services.”

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan also called for a swift resolution.

Speaking after the meeting he said: “The [Irish] government wishes to see a resolution to the current political impasse as we have a clear interest in the integrity of the [Stormont House] Agreement as a whole and in the implementation of the Agreement in its entirety, not least in relation to the Agreement’s provisions on dealing with the legacy of the past.

“I believe that with political will, a way through the current challenges can be found. A solution will require exceptional resolve and leadership from all participants.”

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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