Support for austerity motion withdrawn due to changes

Independent Councillor Dee Quigley. DER2214MC072
Independent Councillor Dee Quigley. DER2214MC072

An Independent Derry Councillor ended up voting against his own motion on austerity after mainstream nationalist parties proposed changes to it and voted them through.

Dee Quigley had proposed a motion that Derry City and Strabane District Council oppose the loss of 20,000 jobs in the public sector “if the Stormont House agreement goes ahead”.

Included in the proposal brought before the February monthly meeting of the shadow council on Thursday, Colr. Quigley said the Council should send a letter to Stormont stating its opposition to the cuts, “and moreover that Derry/ Strabane should have ‘special status’ in order to secure more inward investment and jobs therein”.

Speaking to the motion, Colr. Quigley warned that taking away the jobs would result in money coming directly out of the local economy.

He added that local people did not create the “financial mess” and should not be penalised for it.

Sinn Fein Councillor Dan Kelly said it was important to keep the focus on who was driving the austerity agenda, and said that Martin McGuinness was now helping to address regional disparity through the setting up of a new inter-departmental sub-group which will look at the North West.

Colr. Kelly proposed an amendment to Colr. Quigley’s motion to the effect that “this council is opposed to the austerity agenda being driven by the Westminster government” and recognises “that the Tory cuts to the block grant will result in a reduction in public sector jobs and the ability of departments to deliver public services”.

His amendment continued: “Whilst recognising that any redundancies stemming from the Stormont House Agreement Exit Scheme will be entirely voluntary, we urge this council to write to the Executive to request special economic status for the North West to mitigate against any negative impact on public services or employment.”

SDLP Councillor John Boyle said initially that he and his colleagues were concerned that what Sinn Fein were proposing might be a new motion.

However Council chairman Maoliosa McHugh ruled that it was within the rules and therefore would be allowed to stand.

UUP Councillor Derek Hussey questioned why the council was debating the issue.

He said: “Others have dealt with this at Stormont Castle so why are we futtering about here with it.”

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack meanwhile suggested an addendum to the motion to the effect that the voluntary exit scheme “does not deplete required skill pools” through suppression of vacancies, and called for equal pay on the basis of a living wage, “and further calls on the ministers and the Executive to prioritise options for decentralisation of a bigger proportion of civil service jobs in the context of releasing estate in Belfast.”

The original motion, amendment and addendum were voted through, with all 24 Sinn Fein and SDLP Councillors present voting in favour of this, and all 10 Unionist and all four Independent Councillors, including Colr. Quigley, voting against it.