Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O'Neill rules out revenue raising measures

First Minister Michelle O'Neill has ruled out the prospect of to revenue raising measures being introduced in Northern Ireland.

She rejected suggestions of introducing water charges and rates hikes previously raised by the UK Government to stabilise Northern Ireland's public services.

In her first sit down with UTV since becoming First Minister, O'Neill confirmed that Sinn Féin's focus would be on finance and pushing the Treasury in London to provide more funding.

In the wide-ranging interview, she also discussed Stormont stability, her position on a border poll and sharing office with the DUP's Emma Little Pengelly. She also said childcare would be a flagship strategy for the Executive.

Ms O'Neill said the commitment she has made to be a 'first minister for all' was "more than a slogan".

The Sinn Fein politician has already made party history with her recent attendance at a PSNI graduation event recognised as "a hugely positive gesture" by the Chief Constable.

She refused to rule out attending IRA commemoration events in the future saying "everyone has the right to remember their dead".

She said as first minister she would act in a manner "respectful of everyone in society".

Within hours of being elected to office Ms O'Neill had mentioned the prospect of a border poll.

In the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement she said "the people will decide when it is time for constitutional change".

The first minister said she feels her election to the post reflects change across the island of Ireland.

She maintained that despite prospect of alienating the unionist community by engaging with the border debate, she believes "respectful" conversations around a border poll can co-exist with a functioning Executive.

One issue that has inspired cross-party consensus is the funding package offered to the incoming Excecutive.

The parties are united in the belief that the £3.3billion finance package proposed by the government is not enough.

Ms O'Neill expressed her disappointment at the sum on offer which she said had been "repackaged" and "moved around".

She said the Treasury had historically underfunded Northern Ireland and "starved public services".

Sinn Fein now hold Northern Ireland's purse strings taking control of Stormont's money briefs.

Ms O'Neill said she was not planning on failure when it comes to Northern Ireland's finances.

She ruled out revenue raising measure previously suggest for Northern Ireland saying "we won't be doing" water charges or rates hikes.

"It is not good enough to ask people to pay more for services that are in decline," she said

She said the goal was not to burden the public with additional household bills but to ensure that the Treasury get Northern Ireland's funding model right.

On childcare, Ms O'Neill said she did not view its reform as a cost but more an investment in women, families and the economy.

She hopes that developing a childcare model for Northern Ireland will be "the legacy of this Executive".

"If we can develop the scheme that benefits the provider, the worker and the family then we will have cracked childcare," she said.

"If we can get funding and childcare over the line then the public will be able to see benefit of having locally elected ministers in place.

Leader of the opposition Matthew O'Toole has written to DUP and Sinn Féin asking them to pledge not to collapse the Executive.

Ms O'Neill said she had no intention of collapsing the Executive. She said she and her party "want to do business" and fulfill her mandate.

She said any changes to remove the veto built into the Good Friday Agreement will come down to "collective will".

Asked about her partner in government, Emma Little Pengelly having no mandate, Ms O'Neill refused to comment.

She pledged to work alongside Ms Little Pengelly, who was co-opted into her seat, "with good faith".

She said: "We know that there is a lot of work ahead of us and a very large list of policy issues to be dealt with in the time ahead.

"Together we can do good things".

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