UK Government offers a £2.5 billion package to encourage a return to Stormont

The UK Government has offered a financial package totalling £2.5 billion to help the financial situation at Stormont and to encourage a return to powersharing.

The UK Government has offered a financial package which is worth £2.5 billion in a bid to get powersharing back up and running in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, made the announcement today following roundtable discussions with the five main parties at Stormont.

According to BBC News NI, the package would include a lump sum to ‘settle public sector pay claims and a new “needs-based” funding formula for public services.’ It would also allow overspends from last year, and this year, to be repaid over a period of five years.

Reaction from political leaders

Political leaders were speaking to the media following their meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary at Hillsborough Castle today.

Vice-president of Sinn Fein, Michelle O’Neill, said that we now need to have a decision made in terms of the restoration of the executive and that Wednesday is the cut-off point for this week’s talks.

She also said that the package offered doesn’t “touch the surface of what is required” for properly funded public services and that all parties should fight the UK treasury together.

Leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said that his party will study what the government has said, and their initial reaction is that the package falls short of what is required for public services to be funded on a sustainable basis.

“There is still some way to go in terms of both negotiations that we have been engaged in with the government, on the Northern Ireland protocol, and there is still some way to go in these discussions on the budgetary pressures.”

Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance Party, said that the current package will not address sustainability issues.

“It was important to see key issues Alliance has consistently raised form part of the paper we were all provided with today. That includes the need for a fiscal floor for funding Northern Ireland, to ensure we are funded in line with need, a separate stabilisation fund to undo some of the harm created by cuts and to tackle backlogs, and also a transformation fund to allow us to improve public services.”

Leader of the SDLP, Colum Eastwood, said that it is key that the institutions are restored but was clear that “we are not there yet” and the first thing that needs to happen is that the DUP leader needs to make a decision.

“We’ve had enough not of waiting for Jeffrey to make a decision, he needs to lead, that was why he was elected.”

Doug Beattie, leader of the UUP, said that the package was enough to “do the pay deal that needs to be done” for public sector workers, but might not be enough in the long term.

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