26 September 2023

NORTHERN IRELAND: Politicians push back at UK deadline

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The rift between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom Government at Westminster appears to be growing after politicians in the Province united in anger at Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris’ call for Public Servants to “put finances on a surer footing”.

Mr Heaton-Harris (pictured) imposed a deadline of the end of this month (June) for the information on how this was to be done.

Using new powers provided through passage of the Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Act 2023 for the first time, he has requested information from Provincial bureaucrats on measures such as domestic water charges, drug prescription charges, and tuition fees.

Vice-President of the Sinn Féin party, Michelle O’Neill said Mr Heaton-Harris was “sabre-rattling”, while leader of Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the move was unhelpful.

Member of the Alliance Party, Andrew Muir said the last thing people in Northern Ireland needed were extra charges heaped on them through revenue-raising measures, while Steve Aiken, of the Ulster Unionist Party, questioned why Mr Heaton-Harris had asked Public Servants for information that was “freely available”.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning power-sharing Government since February 2022, when the DUP withdrew from the Executive in protest over post-Brexit trade rules for the Province.

The party is facing pressure to return to Government, but has insisted it will not do so until the United Kingdom legislates for further changes on the trade arrangements.

Belfast, 18 June, 2023

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