I am writing in response to Liam Friel’s letter in last Friday’s (18th February) Journal. Mr Friel’s attack on Liam Gallagher of Derry Trades Council is ridiculous. Liam Gallagher has every right to demand the elections aren’t based on sectarian politics. And he also has the right to advise people to ask canvassers what their party has done for the families of Derry. In fact, I would advise people to do the same.
To say that Sinn Fein have been ‘to the fore in resisting Tory cuts’ is simply not true. The Sinn Fein MLAs who stand behind banners on student and trade union demonstrations, claiming to be against the cuts, are the same MLAs who recommend the draft budget, packed full of savage cuts.
Furthermore, now that the budget has gone through, Sinn Fein ministers will be implementing these cuts.
Caitriona Ruane, for example, or her replacement, will be implementing more that £800 million in education cuts, one of the biggest single cuts to the budget.
The second point is about the campaign against EMA (Educational Maintenance Allowance) cuts, and tuition fees rises. Colin Kelly (SF) was not to the fore of this campaign.
The campaign against EMA cuts was a bottom up campaign, initiated by the People Before Profit Alliance and then given over to young people who set up the campaign group FEE (Free Education for Everyone). I am a member of the People Before Profit Alliance and FEE and know that FEE was the group which called the mass walkouts and demonstrations in the city. FEE was the group that led 1000 young people around the city on a peaceful demonstration.
And I would ask Liam Friel to remember that had the proposed Public Assemblies Bill, which Sinn Fein supported, been imposed last year, such demonstrations would have been illegal.
If Mr Friel thinks that water charges were stopped by any one particular party in the lead up to the last election then he is seriously misguided.
It was the threat of a mass campaign of non-payment across the board that led ministers to step back from water charges.
It was ordinary people organising themselves that stopped water charges.
And, the Communities Against the Water Tax Campaign has not ‘folded’. The moment any move is made to impose water charges, a mass campaign of non-payment will be launched.
Liam Friel finished his letter with “What has Liam (Gallagher) and his colleagues done to find ways of combating the Tory cuts besides complain?”
I ask the question, what has Sinn Fein done to combat Tory cuts, beside capitulating to them, voting for a budget that includes them, implementing them, and coming out on the odd demonstration behind a banner pretending to be against them?
People Before Profit Alliance.