An election roundup from Northern Ireland

Posted by Patrick Malone / Wednesday 20 May 2015 / Cost of living Law

‘Kingmakers’ find carriage leaves without them.

The ‘closest general election for generations’, which was so unpredictable the only certainty was another coalition, ultimately produced a majority Conservative Government. The result dashed any hopes Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had of being kingmakers, denying them the chance to extract significant concessions from the Westminster Government.

Indeed, after such a tumult in the rest of the UK, the situation in Northern Ireland was much quieter.

Of 18 constituencies, 15 remained in the same hands. The DUP hold 8 seats, Sinn Fein now has 4, the Social Democratic and Labour Party have 3, the UUP have 2 and there is one independent MP.

Effect on Northern Ireland

Before the election, the Conservative Party announced it would reduce spending on welfare by £12 billion. The precise nature of these cuts have yet to be identified but could impact severely on Northern Ireland, particularly the children and families we serve.

Whilst aspects of welfare are devolved, failure to implement UK reforms to welfare has seen large fines on the Northern Ireland Executive. This has already resulted in a significant reduction in the monies received through the block grant.

The SNP’s stunning success in Scotland will, inevitably, lead to calls for increased devolution, particularly around financial matters. On top of this, the Conservative Party's win makes some form of English devolution, or ‘English votes for English laws’, more likely.

This will potentially lead to a more federalised United Kingdom, with a significant review of spending in each of the nations and an associated revision of the money each nation receives through the Barnett Formula. 

The result could be further cuts to Northern Ireland’s block grant, with a dramatic effect on the  Executive’s ability to function.

We expect more details when the Chancellor delivers his emergency Budget on 8th July.


The bigger picture

David Cameron will be happy with the results in Northern Ireland. Whilst, against all expectations, the Conservative Party has secured a small majority of 12, the Prime Minister will be counting on the support of the 10 DUP and UUP MPs on most votes.

These will be a boon to Mr Cameron and may help to mitigate the threat of a rebellion from his own MPs on certain issues.


The European Question

A key part of the Conservative Party's election campaign focused on their determination to have an ‘in-out’ referendum on membership of the European Union.

The result will be significant for Northern Ireland, which receives a great deal of EU funding for vital sectors. In the event of an exit, and without substantial resources being found elsewhere, a huge strain would be placed on key services.

Looking forward

Despite these concerns, the General Election result affords a fantastic opportunity to make our voice heard in Westminster.

We will urge MPs to join us in speaking out fearlessly – both at Westminster and in Northern Ireland – as advocates for the children and families in their constituencies.

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