Johnson refuses to be drawn on funding for Northern Ireland

British prime minister visits Stormont after Executive is re-established

Taoiseach  Leo Varadkar  with Britain’s prime minister  Boris Johnson   inside Stormont Parliament Buildings.  Johnson promised a “bright future” for Northern Ireland.  Photograph:  Irish Government/AFP/Getty

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson inside Stormont Parliament Buildings. Johnson promised a “bright future” for Northern Ireland. Photograph: Irish Government/AFP/Getty

 

British prime minister Boris Johnson declined to be drawn on how much money his government would allocate to Northern Ireland when he visited Stormont yesterday.

Northern Executive Ministers welcomed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Johnson to Stormont Parliament Buildings while emphasising that they needed to receive adequate funding to get Northern Ireland functioning properly again.

The Taoiseach hailed the New Decade, New Approach deal as “visionary” while the British prime minister said this was a “moment of hope” for the North.

Mr Johnson paraphrased a 22-year-old quote from former Labour prime minister Tony Blair when he said, “Never mind the hand of history on my shoulder, I see the hand of the future beckoning us all forward”.

However, Ministers made clear that what Northern Ireland required to address issues such as the health crisis and health workers’ industrial action was adequate funding.

There was speculation that the British government could provide financial support of £2 billion (€2.33 billion) to assist the Executive in its early period in operation.

But Mr Johnson, fielding questions from reporters, refused to be specific. “Yes of course we’re going to be supportive, but the point I want to make is that it’s not just about money,” he said.

DUP leader and newly reappointed First Minister Arlene Foster said Mr Johnson must deliver “because we have stepped up to the plate in relation to the political agreement”.

The Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy said £2 billion is “not anywhere near what we need”. A major cash injection was required because “there have been decades of under-investment in infrastructure. We are a society emerging from conflict and there have been nine years of austerity.”