14:12 GMT22 February 2020
Listen Live
    Get short URL
    0 30

    The UK government's offer of additional money for Northern Ireland has come under fire from finance minister Conor Murphy who claims it "falls way short" of what was promised.

    The offer was made as part of the deal to restore the North of Ireland’s Stormont but earlier the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government had made "huge commitments" as part of the deal, without revealing a specific number.

    Irish filmmaker Sean Murray discusses how the Northern Ireland had changed in the last three years without a functioning parliament.

    Sputnik: In the three years since Ireland had a functioning Parliament, what has changed in the North of Ireland?

    Sean Murray: I think Brexit has re-energised the question of Irish unification and has for the first time platform discussions between modern unionists about how a new Ireland could be envisaged. I also think that unionists have come to realise that those who are subscribed to an Irish identity will never allow unionism to resort to its sectarian policies in the past. One of the main reasons why the assembly was pulled by Martin McGuinness was the DUPs refusal to grant an Irish Language Act. That was something that was negotiated as part of the St. Andrews Agreement.

    Sputnik: From your point of view, what are the first things that the newly reopened Stormont parliament needs to address in Northern Ireland?

    Sean Murray: I think there are a number of things, the three-year void and the institutions compounded by the uncertainty of Brexit, and Tory austerity. They have seen an attack on the NHS and the disparity between pay for nurses has come to the fore. The same goes for teachers within the public sector. These need to be addressed immediately.

    We also need to take urgent action on the suicide epidemic that we are faced with in disenfranchised and working-class areas. The minister of health needs to declare a public health emergency right away on this issue because it's something that is very, very serious here.

    Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during a speech in the Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, January 13, 2020
    © REUTERS / Liam McBurney/Pool
    Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during a speech in the Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, January 13, 2020

    Sputnik: Has Westminster effectively bribed Stormont to re-open?

    Sean Murray: It's never really a partnership because if we look through the decades, the Tories have turned to unionism when they have needed the votes in parliament. So there's never really been a partnership. Boris and the Tories don't really need the Unionist votes anymore. 

    Sputnik: Do you think that Theresa May paying one billion to the DUP has set a bad precedent for the union?

    Sean Murray: She got multi leverage over unionists but a lack of funds have come through in this new deal.

    The wider picture though, is of course, what actually happens with Boris Johnson's government. Obviously Boris Johnson has succeeded in the way that he has, with the votes of 29.6% of the electorate in getting an absolute majority in the House of Commons but the Conservative position isn't actually as robust as it looks, as the papers have been saying for the last couple of days. There's quite a lot of discussions going on about their still being widespread rights for EU migrants who come here for jobs and others and not taking back full control over immigration. This failing is coupled with a failure to actually agree a sensible deal that really looks after the interests of the United Kingdom. When it comes to the trade deal, I think there's quite a good chance that the Conservatives will be seen to have failed over Brexit. At which point, the game is sort of much more widely blown open than it is at the moment because both of the establishment parties will have failed over Brexit at that point.

    Sputnik: Can NI trust Boris Johnson’s financial commitments to Stormont?

    Sean Murray: Well, you know, can Northern Ireland trust Boris Johnson? Boris is the Bogeyman. The question is, can we trust the Tories? And the answer is never, we can never trust the Tories. We have learned that. The problem is that unionism in Ireland doesn't seem to learn this.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Brexit, Boris Johnson, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via SputnikComment via Facebook