Northern Ireland news

Justice minister denies Treasury refused Stormont cash to tackle paramilitaries

Justice minister Claire Sugden
David Young, Press Association

THE justice minister has denied claims that the Treasury refused to fund Stormont's plans to tackle paramilitaries.

Claire Sugden addressed a controversy sparked last month when finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir told MLAs £5 million had been withheld until more detail was added to the strategy.

It was originally envisaged that £10 million was to be set aside this year to fund the measures in the executive's paramilitary action plan, with half to come from the devolved administration and half from Westminster.

However, the £5 million has not been paid out by the Treasury this year, with contention around why.

Mr Ó Muilleoir's remarks in the assembly prompted Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt to claim the British government had marked the executive's homework as "not good enough".

Mrs Sugden told assembly question time there had been confusion around the issue. She said the executive had not wanted to draw down the money this year.

"It is not the case that the Northern Ireland Office or the secretary of state has refused money, indeed they sit on our programme board and are working with us when we want to draw this money down," she said.

"We are not going to draw down money for the sake of optics. We are going to draw it down for the sake of using it in the most effective and efficient way and indeed that has been the process to date.

"So to clear up the confusion around the money that's been available from her majesty's treasury, we have not drawn down money from our perspective and it has not been the case that they have not given it to us."

Ms Sugden was responding to a question from DUP MLA Emma Little Pengelly.

"The justice minister has clearly stated today that no plan or funding request by the Northern Ireland executive has been rejected by her majesty's government or HM Treasury," she said.

"The desire is to get a good quality and effective plan, not a quick response that doesn't work.

"I welcome the considerable progress that has been made on this issue, the care taken and the fact that no monies or funds will be lost but all are ring-fenced for this important work."

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