The DUP has accused Justice Minister David Ford of being “afraid to stand up to Sinn Fein” as Executive wrangling about spending cuts continues.
This week the DUP and Sinn Fein reached outline agreement on the much-delayed June monitoring round – where Executive departments hand back unspent funds to the finance department for redistribution.
But on Thursday the Alliance leader criticised the deal, claiming that it had been crafted to shield the DUP and Sinn Fein’s departments from budget cuts necessary as a result of Treasury fines for Stormont’s refusal to make a decision on welfare reform.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said that Mr Ford should be focusing his fire on Sinn Fein, rather than on the DUP Finance Minister Simon Hamilton.
Accusing the justice minister of “taking the cowardly way out”, the former finance minister said: “David Ford seems to be afraid to set out the real reason why we are dealing with an £87m penalty from the Treasury. Is he frightened of criticising SDLP/Sinn Fein in case the Alliance Party loses transfers? Surely David Ford accepts that if Sinn Fein took a responsible approach to welfare reform, then our budget would have £87m more to spend across the departments.”
Mr Ford hit back: “Sammy Wilson is right that SF’s refusal to face reality of welfare reform is a major issue, but that doesn’t excuse the DUP’s apparent rollover on that issue, nor their agreement to choose which departments to protect on a ‘one for me, one for you’ basis.”