Northern Ireland news

Covid £165m will aid arts and ‘home' holidays

First Minister Arlene Foster, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill at a press conference in Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire 
Ryan McAleer, Paul Ainsworth and Allison Morris

A £165m Covid support package will include money for the beleaguered arts sector as well as a 'Holiday at Home' voucher scheme.

Extra funding was also earmarked yesterday for councils, schools and roads.

However, the Executive postponed a final decision on a curfew for pubs and restaurants until next week.

First Minister Arlene Foster said there is "strong unity of purpose on the way forward" but details would be finalised over the coming days.

The DUP leader was also asked about a photograph of East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson which showed him not wearing a face covering on the London Underground.

Sammy Wilson was photographed on the London Underground without a face covering

She said she had not spoken to Mr Wilson, who has been criticised in the past for comments about masks, but added: "Everybody has to abide by the law and take the consequences as well as not abiding by those laws."

Confirmation from finance minister Conor Murphy that £29m is being released for ‘cultural recovery’ was welcomed by arts groups, who have been particularly hard hit by Covid restrictions.

The Arts Collaboration Network said it "has the capacity to offer a temporary reprieve for a sector that has been on the point of collapse for months".

Another £29m was announced for a range of business interventions including support for the tourism industry.

It is expected a ‘Holiday at Home’ scheme will offer £50 vouchers which can be used for short breaks and discounts on visitor attractions.

Councils will also share in an additional £40m, while there was funding for the A6 Belfast-Derry Road and extra cash for schools, universities and colleges.

“The allocations made today will provide vital help to businesses as well as continuing to protect the vulnerable,” said Mr Murphy.

Meanwhile, tighter restrictions are being imposed in Co Donegal following concern about a spike in coronavirus cases.

Residents are being asked not to travel outside the county, with new limits also on gatherings indoors and outdoors.

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