Assembly budget agreement possible, McGuinness

By Mark Devenport
BBC NI Political Editor

Image caption, Martin McGuinness said failure to agree a financial deal would be abysmal for the Executive

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has "considerable confidence" that the Stormont parties will be able to agree a budget, he has said.

He said when it came to protecting jobs and front-line services, he and DUP First Minister Peter Robinson were "singing off the same hymn sheet".

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson welcomed Sinn Fein's assurance.

He added, however, that the next week was vital and "other parties' actions must follow their words".

With their counterparts in Scotland and Wales publishing their budgets last week, Stormont politicians have been facing questions about why Northern Ireland's Executive has been dragging its feet.

Appearing on the BBC's Politics Show, Mr McGuinness argued that "people should not be concerned about a lapse of a few days, or even a week or two".

"The objective is to put a budget in place and to be quite honest, I have considerable confidence, given the discussions I've been involved in, that we will be able to do that," he said.

On BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics, DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson welcomed Mr McGuinness' comments.

But he said time was now tight and he would be focussing on the level of progress made over the next week.

"That's how I will test the intent of parties on this," Mr Wilson said.

"Don't forget, it's not just Sinn Fein, there are other parties involved in this as well, and that's how I will measure whether or not we're making progress.

"I think people can say words but it's important that we actually see actions."

The budget problem facing Stormont may be nowhere near as dire as the situation in Dublin, but Martin McGuinness makes no bones about it, admitting that if the politicians do not do a financial deal that will be - in his words - an abysmal failure for the power-sharing executive.