“However we can’t invite ourselves…”

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, was quick to claim a victory for OFMDFM’s “united case” after NI Secretary of State Owen Paterson said

“Having had discussions with the treasury, we are confident that having spent £9.8bn since 2005, that by 2017-18, we will be on track for Northern Ireland to have spent £18bn.”

But economist John Simpson was already looking at the potential small print

Economist John Simpson told the BBC that he believed a total of £14bn will have been invested in Northern Ireland by 2014-15, the end of the period covered by the Comprehensive Spending Review next week.

He added that he believed the government was then hoping that with an improved economy it would make up the rest of its commitment over the following three years.

And now the NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, wants clarity

Mr Wilson said he needed to clarify how much of this figure was dependent upon raising money by selling assets or taking on borrowing commitments.

“If he’s saying for example, once we get through the next four years a lot of that capital spending will be made available, that’s not going to be very helpful to us.

“If it’s dependent on us raising money from capital receipts and the Treasury allowing us to keep them, of course it’s difficult to sell assets at present, so it wouldn’t be very meaningful in the immediate period.”

And, in the background, there’s another story to tell.

As UTV’s Ken Reid noted on his blog on Wednesday

David Cameron indicated he would be talking to [the NI First and deputy First Ministers] before the 20 October Spending Review.

But still no sign.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are off to the United States at the weekend so time is running out.

After meeting George Osborne recently they argued the next stage of their strategy would be a meeting with the Prime Minister.

As UTV reported last night

Mr Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were hoping for a face-to-face meeting at Downing Street to argue Northern Ireland’s special case, before travelling to the United States at the weekend to attend an investment conference.

“I would have thought that it was important that we do have such a meeting. There are clear issues we need to discuss. However we can’t invite ourselves”, Mr Robinson told UTV.

Ken Reid adds

UTV’s Political Editor Ken Reid says Downing Street wants NI Secretary Owen Paterson to be the point of contact. [added emphasis]

“My sources at Downing Street are saying that in the past NI politicians have been able to go over to Downing Street at will; those days are over”, he explained.