Long says DUP could appoint First Minister for short period to allow money to be given to those in cost of living crisis

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said the DUP could appoint a First Minister for a short period of time to allow a £300 million pot to be given to people to help mitigate the cost of living crisis.

Mrs Long was speaking after chairing a meeting of the five leaders of the Executive parties, in which a range of issues were discussed, including the spiralling cost of living, the Budget and the local response to the humanitarian crisis in the Ukraine.

Funding of £300 million from the Treasury is available but cannot be spent without Executive approval, which is currently unable to happen due to the DUP’s resignation of the First Minister post.

“This was a constructive meeting with a candid exchange of views over the challenges we face without an Executive in place,” said the East Belfast MLA.

“Unfortunately, there are limited options which are legally robust to allow decisions to be made, and there are only two weeks left of this Assembly mandate in order to decide what to do and make it happen.

“People are struggling to heat their homes, feed their families or fill their cars with petrol. There is £300 million in the Executive’s coffers we would like to see in people’s pockets. It won’t put things back to normal but certainly it would have a positive impact for those struggling.

“But in order to do that, we need the Executive to function. I hope what was discussed today will give the DUP pause for thought. I call on them to replace the First Minister for even a short period to allow the decision to be taken around this money. They have issues with the Executive but they are ideological. Let’s deal with the practical issues affecting people in the here and now.

“If they were to do so, it would be welcome and it would allow the money to get out to those in need. In the meantime, we will continue to work to find a way through this crisis, so we can make a real difference to people’s lives in a difficult time.”