North’s Finance Minister seeks pre-budget meeting with British government

Sinn Féin and DUP call on British exchequer to fund pensions for victims of the Troubles

Conor Murphy: The North’s Minister for Finance  has joined his counterparts in the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations in seeking an urgent pre-budget meeting with the British government

Conor Murphy: The North’s Minister for Finance has joined his counterparts in the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations in seeking an urgent pre-budget meeting with the British government

 

The Northern Executive’s Minister for Finance Conor Murphy has joined his counterparts in the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations in seeking an urgent pre-budget meeting with the British government.

Mr Murphy, along with Scottish minister Kate Forbes and Welsh minister Rebecca Evans, at the weekend wrote to the new chief secretary to the British Treasury Stephen Barclay seeking a meeting to discuss the impact of next month’s budget on Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“It will be important to discuss the challenges for public spending as a result of leaving the European Union, and how we can work together to ensure as smooth a transition as possible to a UK funding framework which delivers for all parts of the United Kingdom and respects devolution,” they said in their letter.

“It is urgent we come together as soon as possible to discuss matters of mutual interest particularly now the Executive has been restored in Northern Ireland.”

One of the issues likely to arise if such a meeting is held is the recently agreed pensions for people who suffered severe physical and psychological injury during the Troubles.

Under the scheme more than 500 such victims are due to receive annual pensions ranging from £2,000 to£9,700 depending on the extent of each person’s injuries. Some hundreds more are seeking similar payment for severe mental injuries as a result of the Troubles. Payment will be for those injured “through no fault of their own”.

First Minister Arlene Foster has stated the scheme could cost £60 million, and that the Northern Executive could not afford to fund it. That was repeated on Sunday by DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly.

Political decision

“There have been people waiting for this pension for a considerable period of time. The political decision has been made to give a pension, we need to move on that basis,” Mr Kelly told BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics programme.

“So they can’t now say, ‘we’ve made this decision, but now it’s going to cost too much’. The British government have to deal with it,” he added.

Added Mr Donaldson, “The events that gave rise to the pensions that will be paid to innocent victims happened during a time of direct rule.

“I think it would be wrong to put paying that compensation on the Northern Ireland Executive. It doesn’t have the budget for this. The money for the Executive comes from the Treasury, so ultimately this does go back to the Treasury.”