Northern Ireland news

North/South co-operation will continue despite Dáil rivalry, Conor Murphy says

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has been voted in as the new Taoiseach. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said his party will continue to work on areas of north/south interest with the new coalition government under taoiseach Micheál Martin, despite animosity between the Fianna Fáil leader and Sinn Féin.

Mr Martin will lead the coalition with Fine Gael and the Green Party for the next two years. The Fianna Fáil leader has previously ruled out ever working with Sinn Féin in government in the Republic.

"We're now the official opposition in the Dáil and we have a key role in terms of scrutinising the government", said Mr Murphy.

"But there are big issues in terms of the future of the island at play here, and we need to have working relationships with whoever is in government in Dublin and we have always tried to manage that.

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"We have had constructive and cordial relationships and I would imagine that's the way it will continue to be.

"I know Micheál Martin has been in contact with Michelle O'Neill and they both emphasised that Dáil politics are one thing, electoral rivalry is one thing, but we have responsibilities in terms of the whole island and making north/south arrangements work properly.

"That's not an easy thing to manage ... but we manage to do that because the relationship of north/south future arrangements is of huge importance and we wouldn't jeopardise that for the sake of party political advantage."

Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy

In January the five party executive agreed to back the New Decade New Approach deal, but within days it became obvious that the money to finance the commitments made was not going to be made available by the British government.

As finance minister Mr Murphy was left with a budget far short of what was needed to fulfil the commitments to the electorate.

"There was an attempt afterwards to say this was some kind of wish list", he said.

"These were proposals that were worked through with senior figures in the NIO.

"There was as much anger - and I would say shock - among senior civil servants about how the secretary of state acted after the agreement was reached, because they had been clearly led to believe that if they put together a package ... that would be supported.

"When we costed it all the package would have been £2billion in the first year alone, we got £1billion, of which £750,000 was new money, so it was clearly way short.

"The British government pulled the rug in terms of its financial commitments immediately afterwards.

"We still intend to hold the British government to account for that, any time I get the opportunity to talk with British secretary of state or treasury I will remind then that they have NDNA commitments that they have made to us."

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