Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

PM finance meeting 'very useful'

Downing Street
The meeting took place at Downing Street

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have described as "very useful" a meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Downing Street.

They were pressing for financial aid ahead of the executive's first meeting in five months on Thursday.

Neither would be drawn on anything specific agreed in the meeting.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "We feel it is our first duty to report to our executive colleagues, and we are happy to be able to do that tomorrow."

The DUP leader and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were accompanied by Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy and Finance Minister Nigel Dodds.

On Tuesday, the DUP and Sinn Féin came to an agreement on the devolution of policing and justice powers.

The agenda for Wednesday's talks included the deferral of water charges, back pay for civil servants and the need for a package for people suffering as a result of the economic downturn which has left a massive hole in the Executive budget.

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson said they needed clarification on a range of issues
On his way in to the talks, Mr Robinson said they needed the prime minister to give clarification.

"It's essential for us as an executive if we are meeting tomorrow and looking at wider issues of financial hardship that we know exactly where we stand on a whole range of issues," he said.

'Legacy of neglect'

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin told reporters at Downing Street: "There has been a legacy of neglect and underfunding in relation to our water and sewerage services.

"It is very important that the British government contributes to the resolution of these difficulties, which were effectively created by previous administrations."

Thursday's Executive meeting will discuss the first draft of a paper detailing measures to try to deal with the financial hardship being faced by many in Northern Ireland and will want to know how much money they will have available.

They believe there has been movement from the prime minister already on the issue, but remains to be seen if this is enough.

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