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27 May 2010 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

The royal ‘We’ and us little people

They looked very much at ease standing outside what was once the bastion of an united monolithic Unionism. The leaders of the devolved Assemblies of Scotland, Wales and the Six Counties were at Stormont to discuss the fine mess the British Exchequer had got them into and the cuts that would be necessary to get them and all of us, out of it. It being the mountain of debt, the £893.4 billion British deficit. Generations for years to come will be climbing that mountain to pay for the greed of the bankers, financiers, the marketing men and the Royals, none of whom are being asked to tighten belts, take pay cuts, or face the job axe.
The audacity of a Government to talk this week in the same breath of its proposals to cut child benefit, incapacity benefit, unemployment benefit, and to tell us that the details will be announced by an unelected Monarch who will arrive in a golden coach with all the pomp and circumstance irrespective of cost, and who will under a fanfare of trumpets walk past assembled politicians, to inform the poor, the destitute, the sick and disabled that the state will no longer will support them.
And we are not talking about short-term austerity. We are talking about the kind of poverty that many in Ireland remember as ‘the hungry thirties’. In fact during those years the poor of all religions and none organised a hunger march in Belfast. Given the current British Government proposals the spectre of hunger is not so far fetched as we would like to think.
Benefits, the back bone of the Welfare State are not a devolved matter and therefore outside the control of the Assembly. Aside from benefit cuts, it is highly likely that the block grant will feel the axe of the British coalition Exchequer. It was never sufficient to address the economic and social debris of a society emerging from forty years of conflict and the inefficiency of direct rule. Nor did it include the much proclaimed peace dividend.
Assembly politicians in the coming months will be forced to make stark choices but such choices should not impact on the less well off.
In the past, Unionist politicians and their Senior Civil Servant friends in the N.I.O have not exactly been at the top of the equality stakes in the distribution and allocation of funding. The extravagances of the purchase of rusty hulks that had brief associations with the Titanic, the mega bucks being poured into Orange fests and buying off the various Unionist paramilitaries, have no place in the austerity programmes now facing us all.
Incidentally, why do we need an Northern Ireland Office? Look what savings could be made by giving the new pro consul a room in Stormont, given that he only spends a day or two here each week and has an army of civil servants and consultants to do the work for him?
No doubt about it - Sammy will need more than his clothes to survive the cold of the coming winter of discontent. 

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
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