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October Monitoring

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 3:30 pm, 25th October 2016

I thank the Member for controlling her giggles and for that question. The support that we have received from the Scottish Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, and the Welsh Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, has been very refreshing. As I have said previously, when we speak with one voice, we represent 10 million people. More than that, it is true that when we speak together, the Treasury listens.

I have no doubt that yesterday in London we got a more sympathetic hearing to requests that we made around our individual Budgets and the need to call a halt to austerity and have a fiscal stimulus. We received a more receptive ear to that message because we spoke together, so I thank the Ministers for forming a coalition — a Celtic coalition — on that matter.

It is also important to thank the chair of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Councillor Fitzpatrick, because her council hosted the pre-meeting of the three Finance Ministers in Newry, in the heart of the area that will be affected most by a Brexit, if it happens. That shows that councils are working with the Executive to deliver.

In terms of the Basque autonomous region, we saw today the fruits of that work. All parties here have supported Professor Bengoa's work in trying to make sure that we manage change in the health service rather than manage crisis. Three officials came from the Basque Country, including the deputy Finance Minister, who, for what it is worth, ended up singing with the Belfast Community Gospel Choir and the former Minister of Justice on Friday night. They bring a really fresh perspective to matters fiscal, because the Basques raise all their finances and then pay Madrid. As you know, we have a different system, whereby the block grant comes here. In the Basque Country, that system engenders and nurtures a very entrepreneurial society. We have a memorandum of understanding with the Basques in other areas, including health. We have started a discussion with them, which will be of benefit to all of us.