Jim Allister angered as no unionist ministers request centenary cash

Jim Allister has rounded on some of his fellow unionists over the lack of any budget for events marking Northern Ireland’s centenary.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 7:02 pm
Conor Murphy and Jim Allister in the Assembly today

The TUV leader issued a statement critical of the fact, dubbing it a “shocking indictment” of the Executive’s claim to being representative of the unionist community.

It all followed an exchange in the Stormont Assembly today between Mr Allister and Conor Murphy, the Sinn Fein finance minister.

Mr Allister had said that nowhere in the budget was the centenary even mentioned.

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He asked: “Did any department in putting forward their needs and bids – what they request in their budget allocations – seek money to mark the centenary? And did anyone at the Exec seek to insert such into the budget?”

Mr Murphy said “as an Irish republican I wouldn’t see any role for myself in celebrating partition on the island, but I do recognise that there are people here who do”.

He continued: “The budget is based on departments identifying their pressures and trying to meet those pressures. And I’ve no recollection of any bids for that ... I do know the Northern Ireland Office are intending to provide some funding in terms of centenary celebrations and those that wish to engage in them.

“But I’ve had no request for that and therefore it’s not included.”

Afterwards, Mr Allister said: “I’m both angry and dismayed that in this centenary year for Northern Ireland not a single unionist minister in the Executive sought to include any expenditure in the 2021/22 budget of the Executive on marking the centenary of the country in which they are ministers.

“This isn’t just a matter of being asleep at the wheel, this is a gross dereliction of duty and slap in the face for all who value our UK citizenship.

“2021 was a year of opportunity to headline the achievements of ‘our wee country’, but not a single unionist minister thought it worth a penny of expenditure. Shame on them!”

He said that he was especially unhappy that the education and economy ministers had not bid for funding to celebrate the centenary in schools or with prospective business partners abroad.

“Today’s revelation is one of the worst indictments of unionists in the Executive,” he added. “They seem to have given up on even the most fundamental of issues.”

There are six unionist ministers in all in the Executive, out of a possible 12 posts.

They are Arlene Foster and Gordon Lyons in the Executive Office (the principal department at Stormont, headed by the first and deputy first ministers), Diane Dodds in the Department for the Economy, Edwin Poots in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Peter Weir in the Department of Education, and Robin Swann in the Department of Health.

All but Mr Swann (a UUP man) are DUP ministers.

Mr Allister’s comments were put to the Executive Office which said it was not for it to answer, and the DUP and UUP.

No response was received at time of writing.

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