Week in Review
18-26 November 2015
Tory budget cuts will hit growth potential in North of Ireland
On 25 November Sinn Féin MLA and Finance spokesperson Daithí McKay said the outworking’s of the Tory Autumn Statement would see a real term 5.3% reduction in spending for the North of Ireland.
Mr McKay that instead of the cuts, `we need to boost our economy… the continual hollowing out of budgets by the Tories will lead to a further flat lining of economic growth in the north.’
He said this would `undoubtedly put further pressure on already stretched public services and job creation opportunities’ adding `we need to see fiscal policies that will stimulate the economy and it is quite clear that the Tories obsession with their cuts ideology is more important to them than economic realities and peoples jobs and livelihoods.’
Meanwhile Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady was in Westminster that day to support pensioners protesting against Tory austerity and the devastating effects of cuts. Pointing to the high number of lives of older people lost through fuel poverty, he said that current pension provision was `among the meanest in the developed world’.
Political Institutions are best defence against Tory austerity
On 18 November Sinn Féin MLA and Assembly Minister Michelle O’Neill said the political institutions were `the best defence against the Tory austerity agenda’.
Ms O’Neill said negotiations had resulted in `a package of measures including an extra half billion in new money and also additional flexibilities to invest in public services and the economy’. She added, `we have negotiated a fund of £585 million over four years to support the vulnerable and working families’ which `will be used over four years to support the vulnerable and working families’.
She said the political institutions were the `best defence against the austerity agenda of the British government.’ She said the executive `can and is making a difference to the lives of people in the community’ concluding `we are the only vanguard against the Tory austerity agenda and we will continue to challenge that agenda at every turn.
Later on 20 November Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty echoed her remarks, commenting that Sinn Fein had negotiated `to achieve the best deal possible for our people and to ensure stability for the political institutions as the best defence against Tory austerity’.
He said a return to direct rule would have meant `facing the imposition of Water Charges, massive hikes in Tuition Fees, the full imposition of the Tory Welfare Cuts without any protection whatsoever instead of the support we secured.’
Sinn Fein and trades unions `will continue to oppose austerity north and south’
On 20 November Sinn Féin national chairperson Declan Kearney led a party delegation to meet senior ICTU trade union leaders from North and South in Dundalk to discuss the Stormont House Agreement implementation plan.
Mr Kearney said that as part of Sinn Féin’s ongoing engagement with the trades union movement `we provided a detailed briefing on the negotiations which concluded earlier this week’. He said there was a `comprehensive discussion’ with the union leaders, `during which we highlighted that the extra half a billion pounds in new money and additional flexibilities negotiated which will be invested in public services and the economy’.
There was also discussion on the role of the panel set up under Professor Eileen Evason `to maximise use of the £585 million fund aimed at supporting vulnerable and working families’.
Mr Kearney said the Agreement had `averted a collapse of the political institutions and restored stability’ which were `the best defence against British Tory austerity policies’.
He said Sinn Fein remained `committed to using them as a bulwark against austerity, to protect core public services and jobs; and to attract further investment and grow the regional economy.’
However, he added, the agreement `is not an end in itself’, adding that the British government was `ideologically committed to further austerity, cuts in public services, privatisation, job losses, and dismantling of the welfare state’.
He said Sinn Féin had agreed with the trades unions `that we will continue working together to oppose these policies North and South by using our influence in the political institutions, civic society and local communities to build increased popular opposition against austerity and in support of a fair recovery.’
British Government should fund legacy investigations and inquests
Speaking on 26 November Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said the British government `should fund legacy investigations and inquests’.
Mr McCartney said there was a `state obligation’ on the British government to do so. He said the cases being investigated `happened during the period of direct rule so it is logical that the British government should pay the costs, not the Executive’.
This view, he added, was also shared by Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. He said the British government `cannot continue to use cost as an excuse to continue to deny truth and justice to families, some of whom have been waiting for up to 40 years’ and concluded `It is long past the time that the British government lived up to its responsibilities on dealing with the legacy of the past.’
- * MPs Paul Maskey and Pat Doherty will host a meeting for MPs with the families of the victims of the McGurk’s Bar massacre in Parliament next week. The meeting and the visit of the families takes place on 2 December. For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sinn Fein oppose waste of Trident renewal plans
Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard said British government plans to spend billions replacing Trident nuclear submarines were `an insult to all those struggling in the face of Tory austerity’.
Mr Hazzard said that the plans to spend £167 billion on replacing Trident nuclear submarines was a scandal and that that `the Tory cabinet of millionaires is doing this at a time when they are committed to punishing the poorest in our society through austerity cuts’.
He said it was `merely an expensive vanity project for David Cameron’s Tory government’, adding `renewal of Trident could potentially take billions out of the Executive’s budget’. The huge sums of money earmarked for Trident, he added, `would be much better spent here in the north protecting the most vulnerable, investing in frontline public services and growing the economy’.
Martin McGuinness pays tribute to Peter Robinson’s contribution
On 19 November Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness paid tribute to Peter Robinson following the announcement that he is to step down as leader of the DUP.
Mr McGuinness said; `I have worked closely with Peter Robinson in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister since June 2008. During that time we have had a close and professional working relationship and, despite media perception it has always been courteous and amicable.’
He added `We have faced many challenges together and over the last number of months have worked very closely together to bring about the Stormont House ‘A Fresh Start’ deal. Despite our political differences, I recognise fully the enormous personal contribution Peter has made, building on the work of his predecessor, Dr Paisley.’
Mr McGuinness concluded: `I wish Peter and his family well for the future as he steps down as leader of the DUP. My colleagues and I will continue to work with Peter during this transition and his successor in the time ahead to complete the implementation of all commitments made in the agreement.’
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