Who’ll pay for flags, parades and past? You will, Northern Ireland: Villiers

Theresa Villiers has advised East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell that the Northern Ireland Executive can pay for any future flag, parade or truth settlement out of its block grant: no more dole outs, we’ve a deficit to worry about.

Mr Gregory Campbell asked the Secretary of State what public funding will be made available to help implement an agreement on flags, parades and protests, and dealing with the past.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers.

He raised the issue in the wake of non-agreement on the Haass proposals, which sought the establishment of an alphabet soup of new bodies that would have to be funded if they were accepted.

Haass proposed a new Office for Parades, Select Commemorations, and Related Protests (OPSCRP) and a new Authority for Public Events Adjudication (APEA) to deal with parades; a new Commission on Identity, Culture, and Tradition (CICT) to deal with flags; and a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIT), a new Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR), and a new Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG) to deal with the past.

Mr Campbell wanted to know who was going to pay for all these new bodies or any alternative mechanisms that replace them.

But Mrs Villiers told him the people of Northern Ireland would pay for it out of the block grant: “I would urge the parties to continue their efforts to reach agreement on these matters. Since these areas fall mainly within the devolved field, funding for them is also devolved to Northern Ireland as part of the block grant.”

Mr Campbell queried if there would be any top up to the block grant, asking: “Will the Secretary of State ensure that whatever funding is needed in addition to the block grant to deliver this can be delivered to ensure a much more peaceful and prosperous future in Northern Ireland?”

But Mrs Villiers stood firm: “I agree that these issues are very important. They are difficult to resolve, and finding an agreed way forward would be very positive for Northern Ireland.

“However, it is primarily for the Northern Ireland Executive to find the money for these proposals within the block grant they are already allocated, which, as my right hon.

“Friend the Minister of State has pointed out, is considerably higher per head than elsewhere in the UK.

“We will of course consider proposals for additional funding, but the deficit means I can make no promises as to whether it will be granted.”