After a round of talks with all the parties concerned over bringing back a fully functioning Executive to Stormont, the Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said that, although agreement could not be reached, the deal is still there to be picked up in the New Year. He did say that there would be no more official talks, however he was here to be consulted if need be and he reiterated that there was a total of £3.3 billion available for the Executive once it is fully restored and governing again.
Funding Package To Put An End To Public Sector Strikes
The NI Secretary believes that the package, which includes £584 million to address public sector pay concerns, could end all the strikes by transport workers, teachers and NHS staff which are at the moment causing so many problems in the country.
Mr Heaton-Harris is quoted in an article on the BBC News website as saying:
“It is disappointing that there will not be a new executive up and running to take up this offer and deliver it for the people of Northern Ireland before Christmas,” he told reporters.
“However, this package is on the table and will remain there, available on day one of an incoming Northern Ireland Executive to take up.”
He said by raising the offer of additional cash he was “not trying to put undue pressure on anyone or any party in any way”.
Mr Heaton-Harris said there was “no deadline” regarding the deal and that he would be in NI over Christmas if parties wished to speak to him.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is however not impressed and has been quoted as saying there was still not a “basis to deliver the financial stability Northern Ireland needs”.
So we may still be in stalemate for a little while yet. The financial offer that is on the table is definitely a step up from what was offered previously but the fact that the terms of the Windsor Framework are still causing concerns from the DUP side mean that they are unlikely to come back to Stormont just yet.
There are many people who believe that the Executive not sitting is causing a great deal of damage to the economy and the country as a whole. The strikes that are bedevilling us all will continue until better offers are put on the table, but this certainly will not happen until Stormont sits again. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.