Northern Ireland political leaders attend further talks on £2.5bn funding package

Protestors outside Hillsborough Castle
Unison workers at Hillsborough Castle on Monday. Credit: UTV

A second day of talks around a proposed £2.5billion funding package to address Northern Ireland's financial troubles and support the restoration of Stormont's power-sharing institutions is underway.

Party leaders will meet Northern Ireland Office officials for further discussions around Northern Ireland's finances.

Today's talks will examine the details of the package pledged by Heaton- Harris at Hillsborough on Monday.

The money is being proposed to secure the sustainability of Northern Ireland’s finances and public services.

This comes as Unison, who picketed the initial talk, announced its public sector members will take strike action over pay on 18 January.

The package includes funding for public sector pay rises, but it is dependent on the return of the Stormont power-sharing institutions.

Speaking at Hillsborough on Monday, Michelle O'Neill said the £2.5 billion proposed did not "touch the surface of what is required" for properly funded public services.

She called for a deadline of Wednesday, 13 December to be placed on the talks.

The DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson the offer "fell short of what was needed".

He added: "We want to get a good outcome for Northern Ireland. That means not just financial basis but also on political stability."

He asserted that the financial situation should be considered separately to negotiations around the Northern Ireland protocol.

He said: "We want this resolved as soon as possible, but it has to be right."

He said the proposal from the government "is a starting point, but there is more to do."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said Northern Ireland needed long-term solutions not "dangled baubles". She said it was vital they worked to get the right agreement given its "generational impact".

UUP leader Doug Beattie said the package on offer was an opportunity to get an Executive up and running and allowed for pay deals for public sector workers. However, he said he needed to consider the details.

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood pressed Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to lead the DUP back into devolved government.

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