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Finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir facing budget baptism of fire

Finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir faces tough choices due to budget constraints. Picture by Hugh Russell

SINN FÉIN’s new finance minister is faced with making more cuts as soon as he enters office.

A departmental memo, seen by The Irish News, reveals that Stormont’s financial woes are growing.

The memo from former finance minister Mervyn Storey warns that since Chancellor George Osborne’s budget in March circumstances have changed and that the impact will require “difficult decisions”.

Mr Storey adds that the extent of the difficulties will only become clear next month.

“Since Budget 2016-17 was agreed a number of significant public expenditure pressures have been identified that the incoming executive will need to address in the June monitoring round,” Mr Storey tells his
executive colleagues.

“The full extent of the net pressures facing the executive will not be known until June.

“However, it is already clear that the new executive will be faced with some difficult decisions in relation to the allocation of resources in the June monitoring round.”

Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, far left, is the first non-DUP minister to take control of Stormont’s purse strings since the return of devolved institutions after the St Andrew’s Agreement.

He already has to grapple with finances under severe pressure due to cuts to the block grant, while both the DUP and Sinn Féin have promised to allocate around £200m a year extra to health for the next five years.

Meanwhile, independent unionist Claire Sugden was unveiled as the new justice minister.

The 29-year-old independent unionist’s appointment, which has averted another setback for the crisis-prone devolved institutions, was announced just an hour before the assembly convened yesterday to nominate ministers to the executive.

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