Finance deal ‘could be kicking can down road’

John McCallister
John McCallister
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One independent unionist has asked whether the newly-cut Stormont deal simply means Northern Ireland’s leaders are “kicking the can down the road” when it comes to the Province’s financial future.

John McCallister MLA, former UUP and NI21 deputy leader, raised the point that the financial package now available to the Stormont Executive involves the offer of loans.

He said: “I have huge concerns around the budget stuff. I think there’s far too big an emphasis on loans.

“We could be just mortgaging our next generation, and doing what the Northern Ireland Executive is best at doing – kicking the can down the road a bit further.”

Mr McCallister had earlier tabled a Private Member’s Bill, due for its first reading around March, called the Assembly Executive and Reform Bill.

It concerns the creation of an official opposition and the enshrinement of collective cabinet responsibility; meaning that ministers who vote against Executive policy would have to resign.

The Secretary of State had talked about this latest deal having the capacity to help the Province’s institutions function better.

But Mr McCallister said he is worried that changes proposed within it “won’t go far enough”.

Meanwhile, Ukip’s David McNarry also attacked the provision of loans to the NI Executive, and likened the agreement to the kind of financial measures which are used to keep undeveloped nations afloat.

He said: “This deal is worse than a second mortgage piled on top of the block grant which is already being abused and mismanaged by the Executive.

“It is like a third-world bail-out with massive repercussions which will last well beyond the 10-year time frame.

“No-one trusts the Executive, who have been wilfully operating a financial black hole for more than the past three years.”

He added: “If they couldn’t even handle the block grant and budget, why would anyone have confidence in their ability to handle £2bn of loans? It remains to be seen what their plans are next time the well runs dry.

“Roll on the Assembly elections.”

Echoing the worries expressed by John McCallister, the TUV’s Jim Allister said: “Nothing in these proposals do anything to address the fundamental flaws at the heart of the institutions as we remain lumbered with mandatory coalition.

“There is still no requirement for parties to be agreed about anything before they go into government together. Until that issue is addressed NI will be condemned to never-ending make or break talks”.

Among a string of problems, he said there was “nothing” about victims, including what the definition of one is.

He also said: “Ordinary unionists will be amazed to discover that the Irish government has been given a consultative role when it comes to the flying of flags.”