Northern Ireland news

Meeting of Stormont leaders fails to reach agreement on how to release £300m

Conor Murphy said he has received legal advice that the money cannot be released without Executive approval. Picture by Brian Lawless

A virtual meeting of Stormont party leaders has failed to agree on how to allocate £300 million to families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

The leaders met for 90 minutes on Friday with Attorney General Brenda King and Department of Finance officials in attendance for the first part of the meeting.

Leaders were briefed on the legal authority for the parties to allocate the money in the absence of a functioning Executive.

It was the second meeting of party leaders on the issue of rising energy costs in two days.

Yesterday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson suggested household rates bills could be cut to help households amid the cost-of-living crisis.

His party has come under pressure to nominate a first minister to allow a Stormont Budget to be passed and also to release the additional £300 million.

Sir Jeffrey has disputed this assessment and insisted there are options to help families at this time.

But Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said he has received legal advice that the money cannot be released without Executive approval.

Speaking to the BBC Good Morning Ulster programme, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said costs were rising on a daily basis.

She said: “I think that money should be directed in terms of dealing with that crisis that we’re in now.

“It is affecting a broader group of people who have never, maybe, normally felt the pinch before in terms of their home heating, who are now really struggling to pay those bills.”

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