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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 19:48 GMT
Reaction as NI budget announced
Below is reaction to the budget for 2008-2011 agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive.

FINANCE MINISTER PETER ROBINSON

Peter Robinson

Finance Minister Peter Robinson has said the final Northern Ireland budget published on Tuesday is proof that devolution is working.

"It is almost 40 years since a finance minister elected by the people of Northern Ireland, presented a budget in a stable political environment.

"Today, I am able to do that with a sense of optimism for the future," Mr Robinson said.

He said the average NI household would be better off by 1,000 per year.

HEALTH MINISTER MICHAEL MCGIMPSEY

Michael McGimpsey

The health service is to receive an extra 10m in each of the next three years as part of the budget.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he had worked hard to achieve "real gains for health in Northern Ireland".

"It is a good budget for health and within that, it is a good budget for mental health and learning disability.

"It was about securing the best deal for health and I think I have done that - now it's about making the health service as efficient as it should be."

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT MINISTER MARGARET RITCHIE

Maragret Ritchie

More than 200m has been allocated in the budget to build over 5,000 affordable homes in Northern Ireland.

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said: "I think this has been a good day for the people of NI and a good budget deal for housing.

"I will continue to lobby and press to ensure that the houses are on the ground.

"I am determined to leave no stone unturned to achieve that."

ALLIANCE'S STEPHEN FARRY

The budget for 2008-2011 retains three structural weaknesses, the Alliance Party's Stephen Farry has said.

He said firstly there was no attempt to tackle the costs of a divided society.

"Second, it does not re-balance the economy. It is more of a recipe for creating a low-tax society rather than growing the economy," he added.

"Third, it does not assist with creating better and sustainable public services." He said his party would give the budget "rigorous scrutiny".

SINN FEIN'S MITCHEL MCLAUGHLIN

Michel McLaughlin

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin has welcomed executive agreement on the budget.

He said he was particularly pleased that equality impact assessments would be used to determine future funding and policy decisions.

"This approach can have a significant impact on eliminating inequalities and tackling poverty and disadvantage."

He said Sinn Fein had focused on ensuring progress on the "equality agenda".

DR BRIAN PATTERSON, BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION

"We congratulate Minister McGimpsey on achieving this additional spend for healthcare in Northern Ireland.

"We would be keen to work with him and his officials to help ensure that best use is made of these financial resources."

PATRICIA MCKEOWN, UNISON

"The amendments to the budget with an emphasis on increased funding for health, social services, social housing and skills training are a partial recognition of the massive inequalities our society has yet to overcome.

"However, much more is needed if we are genuinely to tackle inequality and discrimination and move forward in the 21st century."

JANICE MCKEOWN, ROYAL COLLEGE OF NURSING

"The additional allocation of money for health will make a significant difference to the care of patients in Northern Ireland and will provide more and improved services to those most in need."

GRAINIA LONG, CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF HOUSING

"Over the past weeks the housing sector challenged the proposals in the draft budget, and called on the Northern Ireland Executive to review their funding proposals.

"I'm very pleased that they have listened to the sector and committed much of what's needed".

ANGELA REAVEY, ULSTER SOCIETY OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS

"We are particularly pleased that the Executive has not lost sight of the priority of helping local business to be globally competitive and has backed an innovation programme which includes development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.

"The challenge now for government and for the business community is to ensure that commitment to innovation becomes an important part of our culture, from school and university level through to our indigenous businesses."

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