Northern Ireland's new power-sharing executive called on the UK on Monday to increase its offer of relief from the region's budget beyond the £3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) included in a deal to restore decentralized administration.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met political leaders in Belfast on Monday after convincing the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party last week to abandon its two-year boycott of the regional assembly, easing post-Brexit trade frictions.
Sunak said the funding offer was “large and generous”, although his minister for the region, Chris Heaton-Harris, did not rule out the possibility of the new government negotiating the increase.
“We will now have finance and economy ministers who will be able to speak directly to their counterparts in the UK Treasury, and if there is data to prove otherwise, I am sure they will be heard,” Heaton-Harris told BBC Radio.
The agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party paved the way for the formation of a new power-sharing coalition on Saturday, with Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill becoming prime minister, the first nationalist to hold that position in the country in a historic landmark for the British region. .
The British government offered funding in December after discussions with all parties. London refused to increase Northern Ireland's £14.2 billion annual budget last year, despite inflation reaching its highest level in several decades.
This led to the biggest public sector strike in a generation last month, with workers angry at not receiving a pay rise unlike their peers in the rest of the UK.
Northern Ireland ministers said the £584m allocated to wages fell short of the “known pressures” of £690m, and that the rest of the package was also below the level of long-term need for public service delivery.
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