DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he will “not take no as an answer” from Sinn Fein over the Stormont Budget.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald described the “real-life consequences of the DUP collapsing the Executive” as being “the reality that we can’t agree to a three-year Budget” and that £300 million is unable to be spent.
She said Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy has “legally exhausted all options that are open to him” in the absence of a fully functioning Executive.
The first planned multi-year Budget in recent history at Stormont was thrown into doubt following the resignation of prime minister Paul Givan, a move which also removed deputy prime minister Michelle O’Neill from the joint office.
Mr Givan’s resignation was part of the DUP’s protest at the Brexit Protocol and its impact on Northern Ireland.
Sir Jeffrey told reporters in Bessbrook, Co Armagh, on Friday that he does not accept that the Budget is derailed.
“Sinn Fein were saying that about a lot of things, they told us there couldn’t be vital legislation put through the Assembly – it is being put through the Assembly,” he said.
“They told us that there wouldn’t be an apology to the victims of historical institutional abuse – that apology will take place next Friday.
“They told us that it wouldn’t be possible to provide funding for sub-regional stadia for our football clubs in Northern Ireland, yet their minister is now bringing forward a funding package for football stadiums.
“So if they can do it for football stadiums, why can’t Sinn Fein do this for households right across all of Northern Ireland, who today are struggling with rising energy costs and with rising food prices in the shops?
“So I’m sorry, I don’t accept this. I believe that it is important, as I have called for the party leaders to come together to sit down to look at the options that we have, and see how we take this forward.
“I’m not going to take no for an answer from Sinn Fein.”
Sir Jeffrey said he has asked for party leaders to discuss cost-of-living support measures and the draft Budget at a scheduled meeting next week.
The DUP leader urged political parties to “stop playing politics” over calls for his party to nominate another prime minister.
“Rhetoric isn’t what people want to hear right now, no is not the answer that people want to hear from Sinn Fein,” he said.
“It is pragmatism, it is getting around the table, the party leaders sitting down and seeing what options are available to enable us to bring forward measures that will support households and families across Northern Ireland.”
He said he wants to see a fully functioning Executive at Stormont, but claimed this is not realistic with restrictions placed on the region by the Brexit Protocol.
Earlier, speaking to reporters in Belfast, Mrs McDonald called on the UK Government to support families with the increased cost of living in the absence of a Stormont Executive.
“The British Government and the British Exchequer needs to intervene,” she said.
“I’m very aware that things like windfall taxes, VAT receipts, all of these need to be looked at and need to be distributed to support families and workers at this time.
“We are facing an unprecedented convergence of events. Energy prices were rising anyway because of global inflationary pressures and now tragically, unfortunately we have war in Ukraine and that will only mean further pressure.
“So the idea that the state can step back and leave families to struggle is just unthinkable.”
Sinn Fein vice president Ms O’Neill added: “The British Government need to step up.
“The reality for many people is today that they’re sitting anxious and worried about how they’re going to feed their families, heat their homes, keep their lights on, and unfortunately we are limited in our ability to do things in the Executive because the DUP have walked away.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.