PM proposes NI financial package


Published: Friday 12th December 2014 by The News Editor

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The Prime Minister has proposed a potential financial package for consideration by Northern Ireland politicians involved in marathon cross-party talks, Downing Street sources have said.

The package was tabled alongside an amended Heads of Agreement document – outlining the state of negotiations on all of the issues – presented by David Cameron and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the early hours of this morning.

Talks will resume today, before Mr Cameron leaves Northern Ireland earlier than planned at 10am.

Negotiations began in Belfast early yesterday afternoon and ran past midnight as the two premiers strove for a breakthrough on the disputes that continue to destabilise the powersharing administration.

Number 10 sources said: “In the early hours of Friday the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach presented an amended Heads of Agreement document to parties taking part in the talks at Stormont House; additionally the Prime Minister tabled a potential financial package to the parties for them to consider overnight.

“The PM informed the parties he would be returning for further talks on Friday morning before departing Northern Ireland at 10am.”

The on-going talks process is now at the end of its ninth week with all sides insisting that if a deal is to be done, it has to be done before Christmas.

As well as long-standing disputes over flags, parades and the toxic legacy of the past, the five parties in the power-sharing coalition are trying to achieve consensus on budgetary problems facing the devolved institutions, particularly the impasse over the non-implementation of the UK Government’s welfare reforms in Northern Ireland.

The structures and governance arrangements at Stormont are also on the agenda.

But the most pressing issue is the budgetary situation.

Ministers in Belfast have already had to ask for an emergency £100 million loan from the Treasury to balance their books this financial year, and if a deal on welfare reform is not agreed they will face about £200 million of Government penalties for non-implementation.

As it is unlikely the administration would be able to absorb such a financial burden, the future of the Executive effectively depends on a resolution to the welfare reform issue.

Mr Cameron, who has faced calls to stump up more funds, sounded an optimistic note as he arrived at Stormont House to begin discussions yesterday.

“We have got to demonstrate we can resolve these issues,” he said.

“The people inside this room will be discussing and talking about them but the people outside the room, they are the people that matter. They want to see their politicians deliver.”

Mr Kenny said: “Hopefully we can reach a conclusion on a number of matters that are important for Northern Ireland and for the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Government in the Republic.”

Published: Friday 12th December 2014 by The News Editor

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