DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the British government's rationale for the decision "is as spurious as it is outrageous". Alamy Stock Photo
Northern Ireland

'Economic blackmail': DUP blasts UK Govt as NI misses out on funding due to Stormont collapse

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said no funding was allocated “given the current absence of a working executive and assembly”.

THE DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST Party (DUP) has accused the British government of “economic blackmail” after Northern Ireland missed out on funding from a £1 billion (€1.1 billion) scheme due to Stormont’s collapse.  

Some 55 projects across the UK will get a share of the Levelling Up fund, which is aimed at regenerating high streets and improving transport links.

But no funding was allocated to Northern Ireland.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove’s department said “given the current absence of a working executive and assembly, the Government is not proceeding with this round of the Levelling Up Fund at this time”.

“We will continue to work closely with projects and places in Northern Ireland that were awarded a total of £120 million (€137 million) in the first two rounds of the fund,” they added.

Previously, Northern Ireland projects were awarded £120 million in the first two rounds of the fund.

The move comes as the Stormont Assembly and Executive remain collapsed after more than a year-and-a-half amid DUP protest action over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The DUP and the British government have been in talks since unionists identified issues with the Windsor Framework earlier this year.

The party has blasted an “outrageous act” by the government by snubbing Northern Ireland in the latest round of Levelling Up funding.

But Sinn Féin has blamed the DUP for remaining out of Stormont.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has claimed the British government is operating “under the cloak of economic blackmail” to “syphon money away from Northern Ireland to shore up Conservative seats in England”.

“Despite being entitled to 3% of the £1 billion, Northern Ireland has not received a single penny from this round of allocations despite there being hundreds of suitable applications in the system,” he said.

“The Government’s rationale for this decision is as spurious as it is outrageous.

“An absence of an executive has no material effect on the allocations, indeed the principal objection in Scotland and Wales to the Levelling Up fund is that it is driven by Westminster rather than the devolved regions.

“The Government should be honest. The real reason for this allocation is to direct more money into the marginal seats in Great Britain where the Conservative Party is struggling.”

Ulster Unionist peer Dennis Rogan also criticised the UK government, and described the decision as an “incredibly low and cruel blow”.

“I am appalled that, once again, the people of Northern Ireland are being used as pawns in a political game as punishment for the continuing absence of an executive and assembly,” he said.

“These two issues are unrelated as the Levelling Up fund is a UK Government initiative administered and resourced from Whitehall, not Stormont.

“There is no excuse for this and local communities in Northern Ireland should not be attacked in this shameful way.”

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said that the Levelling Up decision was the result of “one party’s reckless boycott of the Executive is disgraceful”.

“The British Secretary of State has already imposed a punitive budget on people here, attacking public sector workers and services. This is yet another cynical attack on ordinary people,” he said.

Workers and families continue to pay the price for one party’s reckless boycott of the executive.

“It is now time for the two-way negotiation between the British Government and the DUP to end.”

SDLP MP Claire Hanna said the DUP’s “continued boycott” of Stormont gave the UK government “the perfect cover to leave our services and infrastructure to rot”.

“At a time when we are crying out for funding, many community projects will have lost out on the opportunity for money that would have made a real difference to places across the North,” she said

“It’s laughable to hear the DUP talking about economic blackmail when they have been holding the people of Northern Ireland to ransom for the past year-and-a-half. No matter what hardship has afflicted people here, from the cost-of-living emergency to the collapse of our health service, the DUP have remained unmoved and put their own political concerns over the needs of people who are struggling.”

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