In an article in today’s Irish News Sinn Féin President
Gerry Adams TD outlines Sinn
Féin’s opposition to welfare cuts.
Sinn Féin have been accused of accused of having no
ideological basis for our opposition to Tory welfare cuts.
Either those making the accusations haven’t been
listening or has 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,
disabled, those out of work because of Westminster's policies, and those on low
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
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 £1.9
billion 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 £18bn
and imposing a £4bn 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 £1.6bn to
offset them. 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 onto 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 a 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."