Sinn Fein MLA for Foyle, Raymond McCartney, explains why he thinks the Tory government in Westminster must be challenged at every opportunity to ensure that their fiscal policies will not have a detrimental effect on Derry’s most vulnerable people
SINN Féin this week, as part of our anti-austerity campaign, launched an information booklet which explains the implications, on our economy, of the Tory government’s cuts. It also lays out some of the Sinn Féin proposals for a better future.
The Block Grant – the allocation of funding to the North’s Executive - has been slashed by the Tory-led coalition year on year since 2010, meaning we now have over £1.5 billion less money to spend on public services.
To impose austerity of this kind on a society emerging from conflict is folly of the worst kind and symptomatic of the negative role which the connection with Britain continues to play in this part of Ireland.
Imposition of austerity by the Tories at Westminster, through continued reductions in our already squeezed budget, cuts in areas such as child and working tax credits, housing allowances etc., which the Assembly has no control over and pressure on our public services are the price of the union with Britain.
Sinn Féin will be robust in our defence of the vulnerable and protection of public services in the face of the ravaging of our finances by an unrepresentative Tory government in London.
MUST TAKE CONTROL
OF OWN DESTINY
But until we take control of our own destiny we will be at the mercy of the political and economic whims of a Cabinet of millionaires totally uninterested in the living standards or conditions of people in the North of Ireland.
The British government’s austerity agenda also remains the biggest threat to the political institutions and the political process in the North.
Austerity isn’t working, it doesn’t work in Ireland, it doesn’t work in Britain and it doesn’t work in Europe.
But austerity is all that is on offer from Britain. In its place we need to see sustainable and workable finances for the Executive to enable it to deliver core public services, protect the most vulnerable and create jobs.
In the immediate future we need a united campaign from a broad range in society, including political parties, trade unions, community groups and others to fight austerity, protect public services and grow the economy.
In the longer term we need to build an island economy designed to meet the specific needs of the people who live on the island of Ireland.
A single economy would create a level playing field for island-wide trade not dependent on the whim of currency exchanges or taxation differences. It would also allow for a single ‘Brand Ireland’ to be promoted free from the confusion and the wasteful duplication brought on by having different state bodies promoting Irish produce and products.
It would deliver a stronger economy and a just, equal and fair society. Removing the inherent economic instability of partition would also create the ability to establish an integrated all-Ireland progressive taxation system.
A strong sustainable economy would deliver major benefits such as an all-Ireland healthcare system, free at the point of delivery and a strong education system.