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British minister defends $1.8b for N. Ireland

Theresa May faces her first Prime Minister’s Questions since a disastrous general election amid apparent Cabinet splits over Brexit and anger over the deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up her minority government.Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, poses for a photograph with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Leader Arlene Foster, Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, and Chief Whip Jeffrey Donaldson, outside 10 Downing Street, in central London, Britain June 26, 2017.As part of the deal, Northern Ireland will receive £1.5bn funding to be spent on infrastructure, health and education over the next two years.”In concluding this grubby, shameless deal the Tories have shown that they will stop at nothing to hold on to power – even sacrificing the very basic principles of devolution”, Sturgeon said, according to The Guardian.”We don’t grudge Northern Ireland a penny – we just want fairness for every other part of the United Kingdom, not least in Scotland”. The Conservatives wanted to increase her party’s majority before going into formal Brexit negotiations with the European Union.Sinn Fein party chair Declan Kearney did hint movement was possible on one precondition – its opposition to DUP leader Arlene Foster returning as Stormont first minister – if the DUP gave ground on other matters.There has been some concern among MPs about the deal because of the fragile peace agreement in Northern Ireland.May’s wish that the province’s executive decide how to spend the funds put pressure on the two sides ahead of Thursday’s deadline, but a spokesman for May’s Conservative Party said that if it proved impossible to re-establish power-sharing, then the responsibility would fall to it and the DUP.”I think that would be a very unsafe place for all of us”. With the support of the 10 DUP lawmakers, May would have a majority.Political leaders in Scotland and Wales have reacted angrily to the agreement, which sees Northern Ireland benefit from additional cash while Theresa May gains the support of DUP MPs in crucial votes at Westminster.Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was in Belfast yesterday as part of negotiations aimed at restoring a power-sharing alliance between the DUP and Sinn Fein almost four months after local elections in Northern Ireland.Mr Adams said any extra money for Northern Ireland was a good thing, and the restoration of power-sharing was the only way to ensure it was fairly distributed.Following a backlash over the deal in Scotland, Wales and parts of England, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the money for hospitals, schools and roads in the region was good news for the whole country, reported The Guardian news site yesterday.Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire warned that time was running short to strike a deal. “Northern Ireland’s hospitality and tourism businesses risk losing customers to the Republic of Ireland where Tourism VAT is 9%”.The revelation about the extra £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) for Northern Ireland was greeted with anger and resentment in other parts of the United Kingdom.Northern Ireland has been in crisis since Sinn Fein pulled out of government in January, prompting an election in March and a series of missed deadlines to restore the compulsory coalition between Irish Catholic nationalists and pro-British Protestant unionists.