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Anger at refusal of direct rule ministers to listen to budget concerns

20 December, 2004

Sinn Féin national Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has said that the refusal of direct rule ministers to listen to the widespread concerns about the impact of their proposed budget is a betrayal of the priorities and commitments agreed by local elected representatives in the Assembly and Executive.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"This budget is a betrayal of the direction, priorities and commitments agreed by local elected representatives. It will have a devastating long-term impact on vital services particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society. Across a range of areas services will be devastated, particularly for our children and young, in our health and education systems and in the priority for tackling poverty.

"If you strip away the costs of inflationary pay increases and pressures from new GP and consultant contracts, the Agenda for Change, increased statementing for children with Special Education Needs then there will be serious deficits in both Health and Education. This budget demonstrates that direct rule ministers have failed to secure the money required to maintain and develop services.

"It also demonstrates the British governments' determination to force us down the road to privatisation of services and greater dependency on PFI and PPP. It will tie the Assembly into a policy straitjacket and severely restrict the freedom of any future Assembly and Executive.

"The reliance on the Investment Strategy and the SIB is a matter of concern. We are being required to take much of this in good faith. This is not good governance. Essentially an entire section of the economy and the Programme for Government is being handed over to an unelected, unaccountable non-transparent body. This is no way to set about tackling the long term deficit in investment in infrastructure particularly in our roads, rail, water and sewerage and hospital and education systems.

"The refusal of direct rule ministers to listen to the genuine concerns of not just democratically mandated politicians but also a range of community and voluntary organisations only serves to highlight the undemocratic nature of direct rule." ENDS

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