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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:15 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 6:15 pm, 19th January 2016

It has been an interesting debate. I have been able to enjoy quite long periods of it. It is interesting from the point of view that what we are seeing around the Chamber from a series of parties is playground politics. The SDLP is in but does not really want to be in, so it is going to oppose from within. The Ulster Unionists were in and then, after four and a half years, decided to go into opposition. Really, that is just a hypocritical stance.

In fairness to Mr Allister, he has been in opposition from the start, so we are used to his carping and so forth. At least he has been consistent, I grant him that, albeit he is often wrong. Nonetheless, he is consistent with it.

The Ulster Unionists in particular today, in my view, are only letting themselves down and demonstrating that, when they go to the country in three months' time, they are not fit for governance. They do not know whether they want to be in the Government or not, but they certainly demonstrated today that they are not fit for government.

Mr Nesbitt, for example, compares our growth to that of the Republic of Ireland. Does he want us to be in the same circumstances as the Republic of Ireland, where unemployment is almost 10% as against just over 6% in Northern Ireland? That is a reasonable question to ask of the Ulster Unionists. If you want to compare us with our neighbours and say, "Oh, how much better the Government are in the Republic of Ireland than they are here", their unemployment is considerably higher than here. Northern Ireland has benefited from growth in employment month after month after month because investment has been made in it.

We have come through one of the most difficult periods of politics in Northern Ireland as a result of the stand-off over welfare. When I hear parties like the SDLP criticising, for example, spending on health, I think of when the SDLP was joined with Sinn Féin, the Green Party and others in blocking welfare reform and handing £10 million a month back to the Westminster Government —