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The end is near?

October 13th, 2010

The Ministerial Working Group charged with resolving the PMS crisis met yesterday and the Secretary of State said that significant progress was made.

The Northern Ireland Members at Westminster continued to exert pressure at PMQs in the House today. It seems as though everyone is working towards an announcement being made next week. Could it be that the end is near for this long-running saga? We have had a number of false dawns before, and we hope and pray that a “just and fair resolution” will be forthcoming next week.

The BBC report seems to confirm that an announcement will be made next week. Let’s hope that we have another good rescue story next week to match that of the Chilean miners.

Here’s what was said today:

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): It is sometimes easy to forget how far Northern Ireland has come in recent years, but there are still immense challenges to stability. In the light of discussions with the Chancellor on the part of the Northern Ireland Executive and the recent visit by the Deputy Prime Minister, can the Prime Minister confirm today that he will stand by the formal guarantees given to the Executive at the time of the restoration of devolution, especially in relation to the financial package and capital investment stretching through to 2018? Those are critical matters if we are to establish and embed devolution in Northern Ireland in a power-sharing Executive.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman makes very good points on how far Northern Ireland has come. Everyone on both sides of the House wants to continue that process, make the institutions work and embed the peace that we have achieved in Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to my predecessors, who put so much hard work into that.

On the specific issues, the previous Prime Minister made a series of promises, particularly about policing and justice in Northern Ireland, which we discussed when we were the Opposition. We stand by those promises. On the Presbyterian Mutual Society and a group of people who did lose money in the financial crunch—I know how angry it can make people in Northern Ireland when people say, “Nobody lost money”, because they did—we are working very hard to try to find a fair and equitable solution.

Q8. [16437] Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): The Prime Minister is aware that many small Presbyterian Mutual Society savers are at wits’ end corner. When do we expect to have a satisfactory conclusion to this whole issue, and will he assure the House that the Government will recognise the danger of a double-dip recession in Northern Ireland when the Chancellor makes his speech next week?

The Prime Minister: I know that the hon. Gentleman knows how difficult this issue with the PMS is. Achieving a fair resolution is not easy. I believe that we will have it done by the announcement of the spending review on 20 October. That is our goal. An announcement will be made, and he will be able to explain to his constituents what we are going to do.

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