Sunday 25 February 2018

Villiers threatens to cut North's spending

Theresa Villiers: patience is running out on North impasse
Theresa Villiers: patience is running out on North impasse

Tim Sculthorpe

Westminster will intervene to cut benefit spending in Northern Ireland if politicians at Stormont cannot come together and agree a budget, Theresa Villiers has warned.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said the British Government could not stand by and watch public services in the province be eroded by a failure of the parties to reach consensus and balance the books.

A fierce row has threatened the collapse of the assembly since police said that IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast last month.

Making a Commons statement ahead of fresh talks on both issues in Belfast, Ms Villiers said she believed a deal was "possible" on implementing the Stormont House Agreement and resolving the political stand-off.

But she said: "We are a 'One Nation' government and we want to build a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger and more united.

"We strongly support the powersharing, devolved institutions established under the Belfast Agreement.

"The future of these institutions is in jeopardy if the two very serious matters I have outlined here today are not resolved."

Ms Villiers said direct Westminster legislation on welfare policy would be a last resort but told MPs that it could not be ruled out.

Irish Independent

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