Stormont faces budget showdown
Stormont faces budget showdown

Sinn Fein’s Six-County Ministers have refused to comply with British and DUP requests to identify areas to target public spending cuts in their departments at Stormont.

British Chancellor George Osborne is due to announce his government’s spending review on October 20.

In the past the British exchequer has simply footed the bill for the annual ‘subvention’ required to maintain British rule in the Six Counties, but this year British Prime Minister David Cameron, has strongly oppposed a “blank cheque” for the North.

Sinn Fein’s Regional development minister Conor Murphy, education minister Caitriona Ruane and agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew will not be cooperating.

“We do not accept British Tory cuts,” a Sinn Fein spokesman said, although it was reported that Sinn Fein may decide to co-operate with the cuts after the budget is delivered in October.

In his first major statement since the summer recess, DUP First Minister Peter Robinson appealed yesterday for the executive to “unite and put Northern Ireland above party interests” in order to make “difficult and painful decisions”.

He said the prospect of public expenditure being cut by up to a quarter would have a “devastating impact and likely bog Northern Ireland down in recession for a prolonged period”.

“The executive has demonstrated it can unite to oppose the threat from dissident republican terrorism -- now it must unite to see Northern Ireland through the present economic challenges,” he said.

Mr Robinson delivered a highly pessimistic assessment of the impact of the proposed cuts on the north.

“The prospect of our public expenditure being cut by 20 to 25 per cent (in the region of two billion pounds) will have a devastating impact and likely bog Northern Ireland down in recession for a prolonged period,” he said.

The DUP leader also dismissed questions and speculation around his future as first minister and leader of the DUP despite the series of scandals surrounding himself and his wife earlier this year.

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