More to be done as talks between the government and political parties extended

Press Eye
Talks between Northern Ireland's party leaders and the Government to continue into next week. Credit: Press Eye

Finance talks between Northern Ireland’s political leaders and the Government will continue next week after failing to conclude as planned on Wednesday.

Outlining his reasons for the extension Secretary of State, Chris Heaton- Harris said: “We will be continuing our dialogue with the parties on these issues over the coming days, with the single focus of seeing the return of a locally elected and accountable devolved government.”

"Over the course of our discussions, a number of points have been raised which require further clarification. Firmer proposals from the parties for how a restored executive plans to deliver the transformation of public services", he added.

A £2.5 billion package from the Government, including money to settle outstanding public sector pay demands, was proposed dependent on the restoration of the devolved government.

The Assembly has been collapsed for more than a year-and-a-half amid DUP protest action over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed a pledge from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the Government “stands ready to legislate” to ensure Northern Ireland's financial position within the union.

Emerging from the latest round Hillsborough talks, the DUP leader said his party would need to see the proposed legislation around east/west trade before determining whether it satisfied its core objective of securing Northern Ireland’s financial position in the union.

Sunak has made clear any legislation would be dependent on devolved government being restored in Belfast.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald described the crunch talks as a “moment of truth”.

Ms McDonald told reporters: “We’re now at a decision-making point for the Treasury in terms of money and for the DUP in terms of powersharing.”

UUP leader Doug Beattie said “there is a real sense of momentum in the room” during the negotiations with the Government on funding for Northern Ireland.

Mr Beattie told reporters he “wished we could have kept it going” by meeting over Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday “to get an answer before Monday”.

He added: “I’m slightly disheartened in many ways. I was hoping that the questions that we asked about the fiscal floor and whether we could backdate the fiscal floor would have been answered, they haven’t been answered.”

Alliance MLA Andrew Muir agreed there was unanimity among the parties on several areas, including the fiscal floor.

He said: “It is important that Northern Ireland has a reformed, restored and fairly funded executive.”

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