Gerry Adams Budget speech
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA has said that real and sustainable social and economic progress will only occur in the context of a single island economy.
He also highlighted the hypocrisy of the SDLP as its' Ministers had delivered a number of 'Thatcherite' policies in the past Executive. He added that while the SDLP has the right to oppose the budget - it is dishonest to oppose and support it all at the one time and then pretend that there is an issue of principle involved.
Speaking during the Budget debate Mr Adams said:
"I want to commend the Executive, and in particular the Minister for Finance, on this budget. The Executive faced an enormous challenge in putting together the Programme for Government, the Budget and the Investment package.
"As other members have noted the issues needing tackled include significantly high levels of disadvantage and poverty in many urban and rural areas; the serious underfunding of health and education services; the environment; cultural rights; our infrastructure; the crisis in our agricultural industry; in our economy; in housing provision; within the community and voluntary sector and much, much more.
"The fact that we have to work to an inadequate block grant from the British government exasperates this situation.
"The fact that taxation and public expenditure policy are all set in London is a significant problem, as is our existence on the edge of British exchequer concerns.
"The lack of economic sovereignty is an issue which this Assembly, and particularly the unionist representatives will have to face up to.
"So this is the difficult context in which this budget has been produced.
"Sinn Féin have set out our concerns at some aspects of this budget including the failure of the Arts and Culture Minister to seek adequate funding for the Irish language.
"However, within the limitations imposed on our available funding, and the conflicting demands placed on the budget, I believe that advances have been made especially in the commitments underpinning the Programme for Government, Budget and Investment Strategy and to the funding levels and underlying strategy governing these.
"This is a key element in the proper operation of the Equality mechanisms - the Equality Impact Assessment Process. I also believe that we need to constantly monitor the Programme for Government, and the Budget and Investment Strategy, and to be ready to redirect resources as we feel necessary.
"Most especially the Executive and this Assembly needs to face the British government with the united demand that we require greater fiscal independence, as well as an increase in the block grant, if we are to deliver high quality public services and a bigger and better and more efficient and prosperous economy.
"Let me also say that I am convinced that real and sustainable social and economic progress will only occur in this region in the context of a single island all-island economy.
"Whatever other difference between the parties here, no one underestimates the potential for greater prosperity through the all-Ireland political institutions, agencies and bodies in the time ahead. All the parties here have acknowledged this reality and this potential must also be exploited to the full.
"Finally, I want to comment briefly on the decision by the SDLP yesterday to vote against the Programme for Government is evidence of a party that is totally and absolutely confused.
"The reality is that the SDLP believed that these institutions would not be re-established. Their entire political position was predicated on the belief that the DUP and Sinn Féin were the problem parties. That was the mantra.
"Since the institutions were re-established the SDLP leadership has been unable to come to terms with this new reality with the results of the last Assembly election and the new political dispensation.
"Yesterday's SDLP decision was ad hoc and on a whim of the party leaders in the course of the Programme for Government debate. It was not a considered position. But the logic of this hasty decision and their slightly deragnged behaviour in recent times, is that they will vote against the budget today.
"How can a party in the Executive - a party that is supposedly committed to the Good Friday Agreement and its implementation - vote one week for the Programme for Government, Budget and Investment Strategy, and the next week vote against?
"It doesn't make sense. Mark Durkan knows this and the SDLP have failed to provide a logical or rationale argument to support their absurd position.
"No-one should forget that it was the SDLP leader and David Trimble and the UUP who negotiated the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative - the ultimate in Thatcherite policy. This opened the door to British government attempts to privatise our water service - thankfully now ruled out by Minister Conor Murphy.
"Neither should we forget that it was an SDLP Finance Minister who tried to push through the legislation on the Strategic Investment Body - the vehicle for PFI/PPP and Privatisation.
"Of course, the SDLP has the right to oppose the budget. No one here denies them that right. But it is dishonest of them to oppose and support it all at the one time and then pretend that there is an issue of principle involved.
"I commend the Programme for Government, Budget and Investment Strategy to the house and ask that it receive the overwhelming endorsement of all MLAs who want to make a better future for all our people." ENDS