Northern Ireland Election 2016

NI Assembly election: Cost of SDLP manifesto pledges questioned

Gerard Diver
Image caption Gerard Diver was appearing on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show

The SDLP's manifesto costings have been brought into question over how it would fund pledges on tuition fees, student numbers and a new Strong Start Fund for children.

The SDLP previously said its pledges can be paid for from £220m in what is known as the 'Barnett consequential money' Northern Ireland is to receive from the chancellor's latest budget.

The party's Foyle candidate Gerard Diver told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan programme that this money would be going to the assembly every year.

However, budget documents made it clear the extra £223m is over a four-year period.

Sinn Féin said the SDLP had "produced a manifesto promises that is clearly uncosted, and has been exposed as unaffordable and undeliverable".

"My understanding is that in the last budget there was something like £233m to Northern Ireland as the Barnett consequential and as I understand it that the minute that has not been allocated or identified for any specific or particular purpose," Mr Diver said.

"Why would it not be put to address many of the very difficult issues that we're hoping to grapple with in Northern Ireland."

Mr Diver was then asked by the host of the programme Stephen Nolan: "Is that £223m a year or what's that?"

Mr Diver replied: "That's the additional money that's been allocated in the budget under the Barnett consequential to take account of the population in Northern Ireland as it currently stands."

He was asked again over what period of time the money was - "per year, per two years, per four years, what is it?"

Mr Diver replied: "I would presume that that's an annual amount."

The SDLP has insisted its pledges are fully funded based on the additional Barnett consequential.

The party said Mr Diver clarified during the interview that the £223m is for four years and not one year.

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill said it "appears the SDLP has brought forward a set of demands that are impossible to deliver and cannot be the foundation of any credible programme of government".

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