Editorial: ​Stormont seems already to be back to what it does best: demanding cash

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News Letter editorial on Tuesday February 13 2024:

​Stormont is back to a sense of optimism and glowing assessments of its potential.

It is as if it was never away. And it is as if nothing has changed.

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The politicians across the main political parties are united - in their demands for more money. Paul Givan the DUP education minister says £400 million is needed for childcare. He says £100m is required to provide proper education for children with special needs.

Set aside for a moment how damaging such a mindset is for unionism. It cultivates a sense in London that unionists have no loyalty to anything other than money and are in cahoots with Sinn Fein in their perpetual demands for such.

Of course such sums of money and more are needed. As they are needed in care for the elderly, in infrastructure, in health and in pay demands. Yet last night on UTV the new first minister Michelle O'Neill had only one answer when asked where all this cash would come from: the Treasury. The Sinn Fein politician ruled out water charges, the one measure that might raise significant revenue.

Also all public sector pay demands must be met. The Stormont parties all took the easy path of supporting strikes, heedless of what it would cost the public purse, unconcerned that it might trigger future strikes and not so much as hinting at arguments against industrial action, such as the ruinous cost of generous public pensions.

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The idea that Northern Ireland is cash strapped is nonsense. No cost is spared when, for example, it comes to taxpayer funded legal aid in the seemingly endless anti state lawsuits to challenge governing decisions. Many millions of pounds have been spent chasing security forces who prevented civil war.

The problem as Stormont is incompetent or cowardly stewardship of the vast income it gets, not lack of funds. We will see if this changes.