28/06/2018

UK Govt 'Continuing To Work Intensively' With NI Parties

The UK Government is continuing to "work intensively with all the parties in Northern Ireland to bring about the restoration of devolved government".

Stating that it was 'regrettable' that it has almost 18 months since local Ministers were in office and taking decisions, the government stated: "As we outlined in our 2017 Conservative Northern Ireland manifesto, 'in the continued absence of a functioning devolved administration, a Conservative Government will do all that is necessary to provide the good governance and political stability that Northern Ireland needs, including political decision making from Westminster if that is what is required'.

"In accordance with the principles set out by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in parliament, the Government will bring forward measures as necessary to provide the basis for good governance.

• First, we will take whatever steps are necessary to provide good governance and ensure the continued delivery of Northern Ireland's vital public services.

• Second, we will continue to uphold our commitments from the Belfast Agreement and its successors.

• Third, we will continue to work to remove the barriers to devolution.

"That is why the Secretary of State has introduced in the House of Commons the Northern Ireland Budget Bill for the 2018-19 financial year and why the UK Government is considering further action to address pressing public appointments in Northern Ireland. The Government will make further legislative interventions which may be required to ensure good governance."

The Government said that it recognised the need for additional financial resources to be allocated to Northern Ireland alongside the Confidence and Supply Agreement agreed between the Conservative and Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party in June 2017.
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To date £20 million was provided in 2017-18 Supplementary Estimates for health and education and in the 2018-19 Main Estimates a further £410 million will be made available, subject to normal Parliamentary approvals comprising, £80 million immediate health and education, £30 million to address mental health and severe deprivation, £100 million health transformation and £200 million infrastructure development.

The government statement continued: "We will ensure that our commitments on major infrastructure spending, including the York Street Interchange road project and the broadband investment programme, agreed alongside of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party, are able to be taken forward so that the people of Northern Ireland benefit from the increased investment agreed in June 2017.

"The Government is determined to ensure Northern Ireland benefits fully from this additional expenditure. In the period ahead we will ensure that Members of the Legislative Assembly during the impasse continue to receive updates on the work of the departments in Northern Ireland as well as preparing for the return of devolved government. We recognise the value in ongoing consultation with Northern Ireland's democratically elected representatives."

Welcoming the statement, DUP Leader Arlene Foster said: "This is a welcome and politically significant statement published by Downing Street on behalf of the Government. People working in our schools, hospitals, community sectors as well as the construction sector need decisions made. They will also welcome this.

"Sinn Fein's refusal to enter the Executive is causing havoc in our public services. Simple decisions are being left in limbo.

Nigel Dodds and I will be meeting the Prime Minister on Monday to discuss these matters further. It is not tolerable for public services in Northern Ireland to suffer further.

"We look forward to the Government taking forward its commitment to consult with the locally elected politicians on the work of the Northern Ireland departments and in respect of forthcoming public appointments."

(MH/LM)

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