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1ST LEAD Britain sets Northern Ireland budget amid power-sharing impasse By Bill Smith, dpa

Europe
08.03.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
London (dpa) - The British government set a budget for Northern Ireland on Thursday, saying the move was necessary to address "acute pressures across public services" caused by a 13-month power-sharing impasse in the devolved government.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said the 12-billion-pound (16.6-billion-dollar) budget would provide "clarity and certainty around Northern Ireland finances for 2018-19."

Arlen Foster, leader of Northern Ireland‘s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said the budget was "great news," while rival Irish Republican party Sinn Fein called it "disappointing."

The budget includes 410 million pounds of the extra 1 billion pounds that British Prime Minister Theresa May‘s Conservative government promised to invest in Northern Ireland under a "confidence and supply" agreement with the DUP, Bradley said.

That agreement allows the DUP‘s 10 lawmakers in the British parliament to support May‘s minority government on key votes, after she lost her parliamentary majority in a disastrous snap election in June.

"Cynics doubted the C&S (confidence and supply) money would ever be delivered, but today it has helped achieve an improved budget compared to the one that many feared," Foster said in a statement.

"Our efforts will help alleviate pressures in health and education, tackle issues with mental health and deprivation, transform our NHS and build new infrastructure," she said.

In contrast, Michelle O‘Neill, Sinn Fein‘s leader in Northern Ireland, said it was a "disappointing budget which doesn‘t provide the resources needed for the public services our people need and deserve."

"It‘s not good for householders, for victims [of Northern Ireland‘s past sectarian violence], for health, for our economy, our colleges or the homeless," O‘Neill said.

Bradley said the government does not want to take "fundamental decisions about service delivery and transformation at this time."

"Yet we must act to secure public services and enable NI departments to meet urgent pressures in health and education," she said.

"That is what this budget settlement will do, by protecting and preserving public services within challenging fiscal constraints."

The power-sharing impasse began in January 2017 with the resignation of late Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister, and his party‘s refusal to nominate a successor.

 

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