Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking this evening at the launch of the election campaign for west Belfast MP Paul Maskey said:
“Sinn Féin has consistently opposed to the economics of austerity. We said it was economically counterproductive and unjust.
It has been championed by governments in the EU, in London and in Dublin.
It has failed across Europe, failed in Britain and failed in Ireland.
The cost of this failure has been paid by the working poor, by the unemployed, by the sick, by the young and old and by those forced to emigrate.
The British and Irish governments continue to impose austerity on the people.
The Stormont House Agreement provided for progress on a number of issues. When others said no more could be achieved, when the SDLP folded on welfare, Sinn Féin stood firm and put in place additional protections for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sick. We ensured no one would pay the bedroom tax and we protected large families from the impact of the benefit cap through a unique system of top-ups and flexibilities.
In fact there will be no reductions in benefits under the authority of the Executive.
Progress was also made on the issues of the past, parades, flags and emblems.
The Stormont House Agreement did not resolve the issue of the ongoing budget cuts to the block grant in the north. The British Government will continue to strip hundreds of millions from the budget in the name of austerity. Their partners in the Irish Government stood silently by supporting the Tories.
· Sinn Féin is determined to continue to campaign for an effective budget for the North.
· Sinn Féin Ministers will safeguard those most in need from the hardships of British Government cuts. That is why we fought for welfare protections. That is why we will continue to do all that we can to protect frontline public services.
· That is why we are determined to have the fiscal powers transferred to allow us to grow the economy for the benefit of all.
· Ultimately it is clear the cost of the Union is austerity. It is undemocratic and has failed. And we are determined to bring that to an agreed and peaceful end.
As always we cannot do this alone, we need to build a progressive alliance against British Government cuts.
It is misguided and a diversion to attack the Stormont House Agreement.
Some who do this are motivated by party political interests. If they were really concerned about opposing austerity they would do it with its advocates.
The responsibility for these cuts comes from Westminster, not from any party in the Executive.
Some appear to argue that we should just hand over power in the north to Tories for direct rule.
That would be wrong and will only increase hardship. The hard-fought safeguards on welfare would be lost and any protection of public services surrendered. That will only give back powers on all aspects of life including equality, parity of esteem, policing and justice back to a British government.
The solution has to be found by building a campaign that increases the budget and delivers the powers for the people in the north to determine and deliver a fair recovery.
The Irish government is ideologically wedded to austerity and the harsh price that citizens are paying is evident everywhere.
It can be seen on the record number of citizens on hospital trolleys; the cuts to respite grants, to child benefit; in the half a million citizens forced to emigrate, in the lengthening homeless figures.
And a Fianna Fáil government would be no better. Fine Gael and Labour are implementing Fianna Fáil policy. There is no difference between tweedle dee and tweedle dum.
I have specifically challenged Mícheál Martin and Fianna Fáil to stand in the north.
If Fianna Fáil is genuinely concerned about citizens in this part of the island then it should organise here and let citizens have the opportunity to pass judgement on them.
Sinn Féin has shown that austerity is not the solution. It is part of the problem. There are fairer alternatives. There are other choices that a Government can make. Sinn Fein has made clear our opposition to punitive, regressive taxes aimed at those who can least afford them and for a reformed, progressive tax system, which could sustain public services, accessible to all.”