Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 17:21 UK

David Cameron in pledge over NI funding

David Cameron
Tory leader David Cameron arriving in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland will not be singled out for funding cuts over and above any other part of the UK, the Tory leader has said.

David Cameron was in NI to back candidates standing under the joint Conservatives and Unionists banner.

He sought to reassure voters that NI would not be singled out for cuts.

Last month, he caused controversy when, in an interview with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman, he mentioned NI as a region in which the public sector is too big.

Mr Cameron flew into Northern Ireland after the return of the volcanic ash cloud had earlier led to flight disruptions.

Flights into and out of Northern Ireland were grounded until 1300 BST on Tuesday.

Interview

Cameron: 'We will get the economy going'

Last month, opponents of the UCU, the electoral alliance of the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists, leapt on the comments Mr Cameron made in the BBC Newsnight interview saying it showed the Tories would single NI out for deep cuts.

However, on Tuesday the Tory leader said that Northern Ireland would never be singled out over and above any other part of the UK for public spending cuts.

Mr Cameron said: "We will continue to fund Northern Ireland according to its needs, and we will tackle the deficit while protecting the essential frontline public services that we all rely on."

He also argued that only the Conservatives could give voters in Northern Ireland a chance to vote for a party capable of forming the government.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories have all said they will have to make cuts in public spending as a way of tackling the budget deficit.

However, the Tories have said that, if they win the election, any cuts they introduce would happen faster.

The DUP, pointing to the possibility of a hung parliament, insist they are the party who will fight to ensure there are no cuts to Stormont's block grant.

Economy

On Tuesday, DUP leader Peter Robinson said that the UUP "will vote for anything the Tories want regardless of what it means for Northern Ireland".

He said that, regardless of whoever is the largest party in the new Parliament, "the DUP's focus will be on protecting the Northern Ireland economy and bedding down the recovery".

Responding to the Tory leader's visit, the SDLP's Justin McCamphill said his party was unconvinced by Mr Cameron.

He said: "The Tories want to cut the public sector, we have a very big public sector so if they take power we will get very big cuts.

"His plans won't work without big cuts and he will not be constrained by the protests of temporary unionist allies."

Meanwhile, the Alliance's Stephen Farry said: "There is no point in David Cameron stressing that all parts of the UK will share equally in the pain.

"The Tories miss the critical point that due to the disproportionately large public sector in Northern Ireland, the proposed cuts will therefore have a much bigger impact in this area."

Earlier on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme, the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was asked about the issue of funding cuts.

Mr Adams said he would call for a united opposition from all sectors on the issue of cuts.

He said: "We are a disadvantaged region, we are badly affected by partition, we have just come out of almost 40 years of conflict and we are not accepting cuts."

Tonight all the four main local parties are due to get their say when the BBC broadcasts the final leaders debate before voters go to the polls on Thursday.



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