Budget ‘cannot proceed’ in the absence of a First and a deputy First Minister

Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy told the Assembly he had sought legal advice on the Budget following the resignation of the First Minister.

22 February 2022

Northern Ireland’s first multi-year Budget in recent history cannot proceed in the absence of a First and deputy First Minister, the Assembly has heard.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said he sought legal advice following the resignation of Paul Givan, which also forced Michelle O’Neill from office earlier this month.

Other ministers remain in post ahead of the dissolution of the Assembly next month for a fresh election, but are unable to introduce new business.

Conor Murphy comments
Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy (Peter Morrison/PA)

A three-year budget for Northern Ireland, which envisages a significant reconfiguration of Executive spending priorities to boost investment in the region’s under-pressure health service, had been out for public consultation.

In the Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Murphy told MLAs he had been told he cannot proceed through the Assembly chamber with his Budget.

“That’s not possible, I’m advised,” he said.

Mr Murphy said he has now paused the public consultation.

“There still is a facility in the department to receive input if people do want to continue to make their views known in relation to it, but there is no point in putting departments and other public bodies through the process of responding to a Budget when the Executive is not in place to do anything about it,” he said.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had previously warned his party would withdraw the First Minister if no progress was made in talks with the EU on curbing some of the effects of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Unionists have opposed the slew of checks that the protocol requires on goods arriving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland as a border in the Irish Sea.

Mr Murphy told MLAs: “I would hope that sense will prevail and we do return at a very early opportunity to deal with the Budget properly.”

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