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West Tyrone awaits benefits of DUP-Tory deal windfall

Thursday, 29 June 2017

THE controversial £1.5 billion support package agreed by the DUP and Conservative Party to ensure the latter retain power has, as expected, divided opinion throughout West Tyrone this week with the DUP looking forward to the benefits being rolled out across the constituency, while both the SDLP and Sinn Féin have claimed that people here might not benefit from the deal at all!

Prime Minster, Theresa May, sought the DUP's support after losing her majority in the recent general election. Under the 'supply and confidence' agreement the DUP guarantees that its 10 MPs will vote with the government on the Queen's Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security.

Opponents of the deal say Brexit and regional investment disparities such as a lack of definite investment for the A5 dual carriageway are a cause for concern but with the deadline for the formation of a new Executive up tomorrow (Thursday), all eyes will be on this before talk of any major cash roll-out from Westminster.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since March due to the inability to find agreement on a range of issues, including RHI, the Irish Language Act and how to deal with legacy cases from the Troubles. Any failure to strike a deal tomorrow could see a return to direct rule from Westminster.

Speaking on Monday following news that the DUP-Tory Agreement had been reached West Tyrone DUP Assembly member, Tom Buchanan, described the new deal as a good day, not only for the UK but also for Northern Ireland.

"Today has witnessed the securing of an agreement which will bring stable government to the United Kingdom, while strengthening and enhancing the Union. The agreement also provides a basis for advancing the security of our nation, building prosperity for all and supporting an exit from the European Union that benefits all parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr Buchanan said the DUP also took into consideration the concerns raised on the doorsteps of the recent election of the crisis looming in health, education and infrastructure and had secured a £1 billion financial package to help address these issues.

"The securing of: £100 million for hospital waiting lists and the funding crisis in our schools; £200 million for health reform; £50 million for mental health will go some way to alleviating the current crisis in these areas and delivering a more effective service.

"The £150 million for ultra-fast broadband and £400 million for roads and other infrastructure projects will also be welcome news to many within the business world, especially across the rural areas of Northern Ireland who are struggling due to a sheer lack of infrastructure hampering their business growth."

He added he knew the elderly will also be relieved that the DUP have held firm to their commitment that there would be no change to the Pensioners' Triple Lock and universal nature of the Winter Fuel Payment across the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

"I congratulate my party leader and MPs for the work they have done in seeing this agreement through and reaching an outcome that allows Northern Ireland to move forward as an integrate part of the United Kingdom in tackling the many challenges ahead and look forward to the benefits being rolled out across West Tyrone. The challenge is now to Sinn Féin as to whether or not they are up to the mark for the re-establishing of the Executive and the delivery of good government for all of our people here in Northern Ireland," he said.

The deal has also been welcomed by former UUP deputy leader, Lord Kilclooney, who is now a non party cross-bencher in the House of Lords.

"As one who has opposed the DUP more than anyone else - in local govternment, Stormont, Westminster and European Elections - I very much welcome this agreement. The DUP has acted in the best interests of all the people in Northern Ireland and in the national interest of the United Kingdom. The agreement in no way contradicts the Belfast Agreement, of which I was one of the negotiators. In contrast the recent interference by Dublin ministers in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland calls into question the impartiality of the Southern Irish Government," he said.

Responding to the DUP-Tory deal, SDLP's Daniel McCrossan MLA, expressed concern that the people of the west of the province might not benefit from the deal.

"The document agreed upon outlines how projects such as the Yorkgate Interchange in Belfast will receive funding but it says very little about the A5 or the A6 which are vital for the economies and people of the west. There is no talk of an immediate end to regional investment disparities which is hugely disappointing.

"Also, it's important to remember that the DUP, along with their Tory bed partners, are both pro-hard Brexit which will be hugely detrimental for us where we stand to lose millions of pounds of investment. Where is that money going to come from and where is the money for RHI coming from? That's hundreds of millions of pounds in itself".

He added: "The DUP-Tory talks have been an unwelcome distraction and have held the talks process back. An extra billion pounds will not fix all our problems. What is absolutely critical now is that there is an Executive re-established in the North to ensure that resources are targeted to areas of need, not just for selected pet projects. In terms of delivering for people, the Assembly is the only show in town."

Newly-elected Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone, Barry McElduff claimed the price of the DUP-Tory deal was DUP support for continued Tory austerity and cuts to public services.

"My main concern is that the DUP has agreed to prop up the Tory government which is hellbent on imposing Brexit and cuts to public services. The Tory government has removed £1 billion from our budgets in the North in the past seven years. They are pursuing an agenda for imposing more cuts to our public services and for taking us out of the European Union against our express will. That remains my main concern after the DUP-Tory deal has been concluded. This is the price we all pay when the Tories are propped up".

He said regarding any new money coming into the system, this would obviously be welcome even if it only served to offset the same amount taken out already via the block grant and losses as a result of the RHI scandal.

"In the time ahead, in my role as West Tyrone MP, I will be focussed on the delivery of the A5 as quickly as is possible, on improved broadband provision in rural areas, as well as investment in our public services: health service, schools and roads," he said.

Meanwhile West Tyrone Green Party candidate, Ciaran McClean, has instructed his solicitor to serve a letter on the government to stop the deal.

The letter states that any agreement between the DUP and the Conservatives would compromise the government's independence and breach the reasonable expectation of the citizens of the North, that the Conservatives will act with rigorous impartiality.

"I campaigned for the Good Friday Agreement and remain absolutely committed to it. I was horrified when I heard that the government was thinking of getting into bed with the DUP so that it could survive crucial votes in the House of commons.

"Both in spirit and, as I am advised in law, such an agreement flies in the face of the obligations of rigorous impartiality under the Good Friday Agreement and is simply unacceptable. My lawyers have written to the government and we must now see what they say in response," he said.

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