In an article in Tuesday’s ‘Irish News’, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD outlines Sinn Féin’s opposition to welfare cuts and says they should be opposed by a united Executive
SINN FÉIN has been accused of having no ideological basis for our opposition to Tory welfare cuts.
Either those making the accusations haven’t been listening or they have chosen to ignore what Sinn Féin has been saying.
I have long argued for a rights-based, citizen-centred society. Sinn Féin’s commitment is to the republican ideals of equality and social justice for all citizens. No one therefore should be surprised when this results in a consistency of political policy.
Sinn Féin is politically and ideologically opposed to austerity in Ireland – North and South – and in Europe.
There is a fallacy that our opposition to austerity is merely to do with an electoral calculation in the south. This is nonsense.
There is nothing in republican ideology that seeks to create a ‘benefit-dependent nation’ but what Sinn Féin will do is campaign for the right of people to live free of poverty and inequality.
‘Welfare reform’ is a misnomer for what is taking place under the Tories, which is an attack on the most vulnerable, the sick, the disabled, those out of work because of Westminster’s policies, and those on low incomes.
These citizens are being made to pay for the excesses and recklessness of property speculators, developers, bankers and tax dodgers. This is being imposed by a British Cabinet of millionaires with no experience, understanding or regard for life in the North of Ireland or indeed in working-class communities in Britain.
Tory policy threatens to destroy the economy through savage cuts to public funding and welfare.
The implementation of these measures in England has been a complete disaster and has plunged thousands into poverty and deprivation.
The North is a society emerging from decades of conflict. Clearly, you cannot apply here that which applies in England and Wales.
What we need is investment in jobs and business, not the removal of £1.9billion from the economy.
Citizens most directly affected by the conflict are among those suffering the highest levels of deprivation. The percentage of people in receipt of disability benefits is higher in the North than anywhere else in Ireland or Britain. Welfare cuts will merely worsen their situation.
Before the term ‘welfare reform’ was mooted, the Tories were imposing cuts by reneging on the St Andrew’s commitment of £18billion and imposing a £4billion cut to the block grant. These cuts impacted upon services and the present health crisis in the North can be traced back to these cuts.
At the time when other parties said such cuts were insurmountable, Sinn Féin produced a paper on how we could raise up to £1.6billion to offset them. Some may recall that we refused to sign off on the Budget until other parties also came to the position of looking at alternative ways of raising money to protect services.
The financial powers currently retained by Westminster should be devolved to the executive because people here are at the mercy of an unaccountable Tory regime determined to penalise the poor.
Sinn Féin has consistently produced proposals proving there is an alternative to cuts.
Welfare cuts should be opposed by a united Executive. They are a blow to the rights and welfare of ordinary Protestant working-class families as they are to their Catholic neighbours.
It would suit the DUP better to defend the rights and welfare entitlements of working-class unionists and loyalists than expend energy on bringing people on to the streets over the flying of flags or the right of Orangemen to parade wherever they please.
Of course, this merely underlines my contention that this is fundamentally a question of ideology – of what type of society you want to build.
Those politicians now predicting that the sky will fall unless welfare cuts are imposed are the same politicians who were prepared to roll over on the issue of water charges and who told the public then that the taps would be turned off.
Sinn Féin faced down prophets of doom then and we can do so again with the support of citizens, the other parties and civic society.