Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness: Ryder Cup trip criticised

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson with Europe team captain Paul McGinley Image copyright David Cannon
Image caption Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson with Europe team captain Paul McGinley

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have been criticised for attending golf's Ryder Cup in Scotland in the midst of a "crisis".

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are at Gleneagles to support the European team, which includes golfers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Alliance leader David Ford said they were "more interested in 18 holes at Gleneagles than a budget black hole".

A Stormont spokesperson said they were guests of Scotland's first minister.

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Media captionAlliance leader David Ford criticised the decision of the first and deputy first ministers to attend the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup is one of golf's most prestigious tournaments, and is a biennial golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States, with venues alternating between them.

Mr Ford said: "In the face of the growing financial and political crisis, I am sure that I am not the only horrified person to hear that the first and deputy first ministers have decided that they are more interested in watching the Ryder Cup.

"Stephen Farry and I told the executive that we were prepared to clear our diaries on Thursday evening or all day Friday to discuss the budget. It seems that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have other priorities."

Alex Attwood of the SDLP told the BBC there was a "financial crisis" and "political crisis" emerging.

"As a politician, I think people should be applying their minds to the issues back home at this time... I think they should be back here working to resolve the multiple issues that are beginning to emerge," he said.

'Unfit to govern'

He earlier tweeted: "FM and dFM are off to the Ryder Cup in the middle of a public finance crisis.

"Rushing to the sound of clicking cameras. Unfit to govern."

On Thursday, Northern Ireland's executive ministers discussed the serious financial pressures on their budgets.

They face having to make £200m of cuts between October and April, equivalent to 4% of all departmental budgets.

In a statement, the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers said: "Ministers are attending the Ryder Cup today at Gleneagles at the request of the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond.

"Ministers will meet First Minister Alex Salmond and other representatives from the Scottish government.

"Ministers will also engage with business representatives and have meetings with George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour and the Rory McIlroy Foundation to discuss plans for the 2015 and 2017 Irish Open."

The Ryder Cup is being held at the Gleneagles Hotel, in Perthshire, finishing on Sunday.

The format involves various matchplay competitions between players selected from two teams of 12.

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