Reaction to £700m budget cut proposals in Northern Ireland

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A round-up of political reaction to proposals to cut more than £700m from Stormont departments put forward by Northern Ireland's finance minister, Simon Hamilton.

David Ford, Alliance leader

What is absolutely clear, we urgently need to agree a budget. We need to have rational discussions at the executive table looking at priorities for the executive as a whole, and not just salami slicing by departments.

Clearly the deal is likely to be struck by the DUP and Sinn Féin. What is absolutely essential is that we have serious engagement, that people get down to the business that we should have engaged in a month ago.

We saw earlier on when we borrowed £100m, because we owe £87m, the difficulties the executive is in. I have a degree of sympathy with Simon Hamilton but it is absolutely clear we have do not yet have joint-up thinking between the DUP and Sinn Féin in Stormont Castle, and that's what we urgently need.

Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP leader

It's a bit of an ambush, if you like. We need some time, at least 48 hours, to get a look at this, before we can respond positively to it, or creatively or constructively.

This is typical of how they have done business here over a long period of time, because, quite simply we argued this: that the four-year budget was flawed and dysfunctional.

We need to be looking at a budget and we needed to give people time to get to grips with the challenges and pressures of the budget, and they are not doing this.

The two main parties have just rolled over for the chancellor and the Treasury and they are just handing down on tablets of stone what they've been dictated to. They are not adding any value or real input into the finances.

I think there are the makings of a done deal there, I think we are only going through the processes, the optics.

Mike Nesbitt, UUP leader

I think if you were to protect education as well as health, you would be looking at eye-watering cuts to the other government departments, in terms of their resource. They're spending money that they could not absorb, so we are in a very, very bad place.

We are going to have to make cuts, but for two years all I hear is arguments about welfare and the block grant. When are we going to start talking about generating serious wealth for this country? Until we do that, we will continue to struggle with our finances.

If there is no agreement on Friday, if you read the chancellor's letter, there will be no £100m loan. There will still be the £87m welfare fines and the budget does not add up - and we are, therefore, in a crisis like we have never been before.

Sinn Féin spokesperson

Sinn Féin is committed to finding agreement on a budget by the end of this week, which defends core public services, particularly health and education.

DFM advisers met with their counterparts on Monday as part of the normal process to deal with this issue.

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