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1 July 2015 Edition

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Stormont Budget Bill support creates space for lasting solution

• Martin McGuinness said that Sinn Féin support for the Bill would allow time for new negotiations

Martin McGuinness said the austerity policies of the Tory Government at Westminster are undermining the ability of the Executive to deliver public services and warned that any further cuts would make the political institutions in the North unsustainable

THE decision by Sinn Féin to support the Budget Bill in the Assembly at Stormont will create the space to resolve the current difficulties facing the Executive, Martin McGuinness MLA has said.

The deputy First Minister made the comment as he announced Sinn Féin’s decision to give conditional support to the Budget Bill in the Assembly on Monday 22 June. 

The decision to back the budget was taken by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle when it met at Naas, County Kildare, the previous day, before the Wolfe Tone Commemoration at Bodenstown. 

Announcing Sinn Féin’s position on the budget, Martin McGuinness said voting for the Bill would allow time for a new process of negotiations to resolve the crisis that British Government austerity polices have created for the Executive. 

“Sinn Féin will support the current budget Bill to create the space to resolve outstanding issues and ensure the Executive has workable and sustainable finances and the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

“We need to ensure that the Executive has the resources to continue to build a peaceful, inclusive and tolerant society,” he said.

Martin McGuinness (who on the Saturday addressed a quarter of a million people at an anti-austerity rally at Westminster) said the austerity policies of the Tory Government are undermining the ability of the Executive to deliver public services and warned that any further cuts would make the political institutions in the North unsustainable. 

“There remains a fundamental challenge for the Executive around welfare protections. But while we explore a way forward on this issue, the other important elements of the Stormont House Agreement, including the essential legacy mechanisms, should and must proceed.

“This Budget Bill does not involve any reduction in social security support for the most vulnerable in our society. And it does not contain any in-year reductions as a consequence of the £25billion of further cuts announced by the Tories.

“The Executive now has nowhere to go in the context of the further eye-watering cuts planned by the Tories. There is no room to manoeuvre. There are no more savings to be made.

“Any further cuts to our budget will dramatically impact on frontline services, on our economy and on our society. That is not sustainable and it is a scenario that is not acceptable to Sinn Fein,” he said.

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• The Tory Government has indicated that its ideologically-driven assault on public services will not only continue but will be escalated

The deputy First Minister also said the British Government’s austerity agenda is failing communities in the North and in Britain. 

“The newly-elected Tory Government has indicated that this ideologically-driven assault on public services will not only continue but that it will be escalated.

“Unlike the Tory millionaires, I live in a working-class community in the heart of the Bogside in Derry. The people the Tories are targeting are my friends, my neighbours, my family. They are a proud and decent community of fine, hard-working people – just like our people in working-class unionist communities.

“They are not, as the Tories claim, parasites or spongers.

“It is David Cameron’s Cabinet of millionaires who have no comprehension of life in unionist and nationalist working-class communities and who have been given free rein to live out their Thatcherite fantasies at the expense of ordinary, decent communities throughout these islands.

“Austerity is devastating these communities. 

“Austerity is a politically-misguided approach and it does not work. It impedes economic recovery and punishes the working poor, public sector workers, the disabled and the vulnerable.”

The Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator said there is now a need for a united voice coming from Stormont to challenge the British Government.

“The ideologically-driven cuts agenda has created a political and financial crisis for our Executive and Assembly. But this crisis is not between the parties in the Assembly. This is a crisis imposed on the Assembly – and the Assemblies in Wales and Scotland – by the Tory Government in Westminster.

“No one here stood on a pro-austerity platform. The Tories who did stand on a pro-austerity platform received a derisory vote in May. They are a fringe party in the North of Ireland – and in Scotland and in Wales. But they are a fringe party that is imposing its failed ideology on societies that voted against this approach. That is fundamentally undemocratic.

“So let’s come at this positively. Let’s try to find solutions.

“We must, as a united Assembly and a united Executive, engage with the two governments as a matter of urgency in defence of our political process, in defence of our core public services and in defence of the most marginalised and vulnerable in our society.”

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