DFM Resignation

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Emma Little Pengelly Emma Little Pengelly DUP 3:15 pm, 16th January 2017

T4. Mrs Little Pengelly asked the Minister of Health to outline the representations she made to the deputy First Minister to state that, rather than resign when he did, he should wait to allow a Budget to be laid in order that her Department and all those people who need health services can get the help and support that they need when they need it, given that she will be aware that the Finance Committee held an emergency meeting this morning to hear about the inadequacies of section 59, which, for example, does not allow the distribution of accrued funds of some £2·5 billion; the Finance Minister has not brought forward rates regulations, which means that rates bills cannot be sent out and that additional money brought in, which will cause a huge crisis in the Departments, including the Department of Health. (AQT 649/16-21)

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

The Finance Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, answered you earlier in relation to section 59. This is another example of the DUP trying to scaremonger and get cover. The reason we are in this situation is absolutely of the DUP's making; it is nobody else's. Had the DUP listened to the public outcry and been really serious about having integrity in government, it would have stood aside. We are in this position because of the actions of the DUP, not those of Martin McGuinness. Martin McGuinness did the right thing; he tendered his resignation because he was no longer prepared to lead his party in government with people who are not interested in equality or mutual respect. Our position is very, very clear. I want to be at my desk delivering for health and social care. I want to make sure that I drive forward the transformation piece, but I tell you this: I will not be part of a government in which the DUP is not interested in equality. We cannot be partners in government with people who care about certain sections of society only. It is not good enough.

Photo of Emma Little Pengelly Emma Little Pengelly DUP

Sadly, what we have heard here today is a Minister of Health reading off a Sinn Féin election cue card rather than caring about the many, many thousands of people who will be impacted by the lack of a budget. The Health Department will start this financial year without a budget or planning, and that will impact on those most at need. The responsibility lies with you as Minister of the Department. You cannot duck the responsibility to ensure that there is a budget in place and to make representations to your colleagues to that end. What contingencies have you put in place, Minister, to ensure that public services in health are not impacted detrimentally?

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

Again, we are back to the same point. The reason why we are in this situation is the DUP, its arrogance, its lack of integrity, the RHI scandal and everything else that went before it. The DUP should have listened to the calls for Arlene Foster to stand aside, allowing a full investigation to disclose all of the information and have it in the public discourse. There is a crisis of confidence in the institutions — an absolute crisis of confidence. People do not trust the DUP, so I absolutely think that Martin McGuinness took the right decision. We know that he took the right decision. It is now over to the public to have their say. Our track record on delivery and on putting equality at the core of the Departments for which Sinn Féin has held the ministerial portfolio speaks for itself, and we will never be distracted from that. We will, however, only ever come back to these institutions and be in the Executive if equality is embedded at their core.