As a trade union member and Sinn Féin activist I was very disappointed at an article in the Sunday Journal (13th February) by Liam Gallagher, Secretary of the Derry Trades Council, in which he rolled out the old chestnut of not allowing the forthcoming election to become in his words a “sectarian headcount”. He also called on householders to ask canvassers what their party has done for the families of this city.
He then went on to have a swipe at Sinn Féin and the Stand Up for Derry campaign and said local MLAs who were claiming to stand up for Derry were also part of an executive which was ultimately implementing Tory cuts.
I don’t know where Liam has been but Sinn Féin has been to the fore in resisting Tory cuts. They have met with all the trade unions, business leaders, community and voluntary organisations and have lobbied through Derry City Council and the Assembly calling for a unified approach to face down Tory cuts.
When workers were facing difficulties at Calcast, Artnz Belting, Post Office and recently at a local plumbing firm in the city, Sinn Féin representatives were on the ground and offering what ever practical help they could in very difficult circumstances.
Cityside Sinn Féin Councillor, Colin Kelly has been to the fore in the campaign to stop the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). Both Colin and Martina Anderson will be meeting with the Minister Danny Kennedy next week on this issue.
Just over three years ago when the Stand Up For Derry Campaign was launched, one of its key demands was for better access to cancer services for the city and the Northwest. When it was announced by Minister McGimpsey that that there was no money for staffing the facility a cross party campaign was immediately initiated.
Martina Anderson spoke out recently at the British Government’s decision to increase VAT to 20%. Councillor Tony Hassan is well known for championing construction of new social homes in Derry to be increased over the next five years to meet demand.
In December 2010 Martina Anderson announced that the Executive sourced an additional £1.6bn to help off-set the Tory cuts. This was found through a number of Sinn Féin economic proposals, without which the effect of the Tory austerity measures would havec been a lot worse.
Raymond McCartney has come out strongly against Tory welfare reforms and has asked that alternatives be found.
Furthermore I can state from past experience that I have heard all the slogans and demands of various protest groupings before and was involved myself in Communities Against Water Charges. But after the election was over, these groups folded, the slogans disappeared and apart from a few messy protests after the 2005 elections, the self-styled ‘non-sectarian’ groups were no where to be seen.
The real bread and butter, non-sectarian issues affecting everyone were (and still are) being addressed by one party only, during and after elections. That party is Sinn Féin. What has Liam and his colleagues done to find ways of combatting the Tory cuts besides complain?