Tory austerity must be confronted collectively – McGuinness
Martin McGuinness spoke about the campaign against British government austerity in the Macmillan Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons.
The event was attended by MPs and members of the House of Lords from a range of parties, trade unionists, charities and campaign groups.
I am delighted to be here and to welcome you all to the Sinn Fein Westminster reception.
I was in London a fortnight ago when I had the honour of addressing a quarter of a million people at the huge anti austerity rally organised by the People’s Assembly.
I know many of you were there also and I want to say that we in Sinn Féin have been greatly inspired by the strength of the anti-austerity movement on this side of the Irish Sea.
It has long been our position that we must use our collective strength to confront and confound this current Tory government and their disastrous austerity agenda.
So we look forward to continuing to work and campaign with other progressive forces across these islands over the weeks and months ahead.
I have no doubt that our MPs – Paul, Pat, Francie and Mickey will be at the forefront of that work.
Sinn Féin stood for election on an anti-austerity platform and we are absolutely determined to honour the mandate given to us.
That is why – in the south of Ireland – we have been the leading voice of opposition to the Dublin government’s austerity agenda, which has decimated communities across the state.
Public services and welfare were cut, new taxes imposed, workers’ rights reduced, wages and hours cut. Hardship, poverty and inequality increased. Young people are emigrating in their thousands.
That is the result of austerity. That is what happens when the debts of private business, banks and developers are passed onto the people.
In the north of Ireland – where Sinn Fein is in government and I am the Deputy First Minister - we blocked the Welfare Bill and the cuts that the Tories demanded we impose on the most vulnerable.
The response from the Tories has been as predictable as it has been reckless. Their ideological attachment to their Thatcherite agenda is such that they are willing to jeopardise the very future of the power-sharing institutions of the Good Friday agreement in order to pursue it.
Those institutions - which have underpinned the peace process for almost two decades - are now on endangered because of Tory recklessness.
It would seem that, unless we acquiesce to their demands to target the most vulnerable and decimate public services, they are prepared to see the power-sharing administration collapse.
But we will not allow the institutions – or our party – to become a proxy for a disastrous and counter-productive agenda.
Of course, I could simply stand here and tell you all the things that Sinn Féin is against.
But I also want to talk about what we are for.
Because there is an alternative.
The alternative is investment and growth, equality and prosperity, the safety net and the helping hand.
In the context of Ireland, the alternative is also in unity of the island. It is ludicrous at any time – but particularly at a time of economic crisis – for an island with a population of just 6 million people to have two economies developing back to back.
Two health systems, two education systems, two public sectors and all the duplication and waste that goes with that.
Sinn Féin is for equality and fairness, for prosperity and social justice across every aspect of life.
For instance, it is shameful that the only place in these islands – indeed the only place between here and California – that members of the LGBT community still do not have the right to equal marriage is in the North of Ireland.
But Sinn Féin will continue to defend the rights and entitlements of all minorities. We will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable in our society and demand and deliver a better future for our children.
We want to work constructively as part of a progressive alliance to achieve that. I know that many of you feel the same way.
So while these are challenging times we are living in, there is no one in this room who is afraid of a challenge and I greatly look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with you all as we face them together.