Northern Ireland

Sunak in Northern Ireland: £3.3 billion package ‘a generous and fair settlement’

The two leaders will meet the new powersharing Executive, which has returned after a two-year political impasse.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in Northern Ireland to mark the return of devolved government
Stormont Assembly Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in Northern Ireland to mark the return of devolved government (Carrie Davenport/PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hailed a “brighter future for people” of Northern Ireland and insisted the £3.3 billion package to stabilise finances in the region is a “a generous and fair settlement”

Mr Sunak and taoiseach Leo Varadkar are to visit Stormont today as they mark the return of devolved government.

Mr Sunak and Mr Varadkar will meet each other, as well as the leaders of the new powersharing Executive which was formed on Saturday, ending two years of political stalemate.

The newly-formed Executive has already written to the Prime Minister calling for urgent discussions on long-term funding stability to deliver public services.

The Executive, headed by Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill and the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly, will also hold its first meeting on Monday as it begins the task of trying to deal with Northern Ireland’s strained finances.

Rishi Sunak and Leo Varadkar will meet with Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly, the leaders of the new powersharing Executive
Stormont Assembly Rishi Sunak and Leo Varadkar will meet with Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly, the leaders of the new powersharing Executive (Northern Ireland Executive/PA)

Ms O’Neill made history when she was appointed the region’s first nationalist First Minister.

The institutions were restored after a deal between Mr Sunak’s government and the DUP to address unionist concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements, which included passing new legislation at Westminster.



Mr Sunak is also carrying out community engagements during his visit to Northern Ireland, meeting people involved in public services.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Air Ambulance Northern Ireland at its headquarters in Lisburn
Stormont Assembly Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Air Ambulance Northern Ireland at its headquarters in Lisburn (Carrie Davenport/PA)

On Sunday, he was at the headquarters of Air Ambulance Northern Ireland in Co Antrim, where he said the return of Stormont represented a “brighter future for people”.

The UK Government has offered a £3.3 billion package to stabilise finances in the region, and settle public sector pay claims.

However, the Executive will press Mr Sunak for more funding.

The Prime Minister said the offer represents “a generous and fair settlement”.

He added: “And crucially, it is sustainable.

“It is about ensuring public finances in Northern Ireland are sustainable for the long term. That approach we have taken, I think, will really benefit everyone here.

“And now that we have got the Executive back up and running, it is right that people have their local politicians focusing on their priorities, starting with public services.

“There has not been devolved government up and running here for far too long. But now we do have it and they can start focusing on delivering for everyone.”

However, the letter from all Stormont ministers to the Prime Minister states that the current financial package on offer “does not provide the basis for the Executive to deliver sustainable public services and public finances”.

Michelle O’Neill said the Executive would be pressing the Prime Minister for adequate funding for public services
Stormont Assembly Michelle O’Neill said the Executive would be pressing the Prime Minister for adequate funding for public services (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms O’Neill said: “This morning the Prime Minister will meet Executive ministers united in our determination to get the right long-term funding package agreed.

“If we are to tackle the serious problems across public services – in our hospitals and our schools – then how we are funded needs to change and I will be strongly pressing that point at today’s meeting.

“It is critical that the Executive has the right resources to deliver effective public services for all our citizens and we will engage with the Prime Minister to achieve our shared objective.”

Ms Little-Pengelly said the Executive would be “speaking with one voice” in its meeting with the Prime Minister.

She added: “We will be saying that the people of Northern Ireland deserve better public services and that we need to work together – the Executive and the Government – to deliver long term fiscal stability.

“We are ready to engage with the Government and get down to the work of putting our finances on a sound footing, however, we will also be seeking to ensure the UK Government provides sufficient funding in a package to fulfil its promises on public sector pay.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said the Government will appeal against a Belfast High Court ruling
Stormont Assembly Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said the Government will appeal against a Belfast High Court ruling (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris this morning defended the UK Government’s funding for Stormont.

The minister urged the new Executive to “get on with the job” of sorting out Northern Ireland and insisted the £3.3 billion package will be enough to do that “for the time being”.

Asked about a letter in which Stormont ministers say the funding will not provide the basis for the executive to deliver sustainable public services, he told BBC Breakfast: “I don’t believe that is the case. I think Stormont has fantastic, strong foundations now and it will survive, it will be sustainable.

“I’m sure that the new minister of finance and the new minister for the economy when they get their feet under their desks later today, will be able to look at the books as it were.”

He added: “There is a thing, I think, about choices. You’re going into politics, you have to make choices on these sorts of things.

“Those choices haven’t been made for a long time out here, and I believe the new set of ministers are completely capable of running their public finances perfectly well with the fair and generous funding package we’ve given them.”