TALKS WILL BE SUCCESSFUL SAYS (J118) McGUINNESS

THE ongoing political talks will be successful “against the odds”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness told a meeting of his party last night.

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He said the devolved institutions “are worth saving and I believe the vast majority of people share that view”. But he said the parties must agree to protect the most vulnerable and ensure Stormont (the big house on the hill) has “a workable budget so that public services are delivered to the standard the public expect and deserve”. The deputy first minister also called on the British government to accept they are part of the negotiations and are “not some kind of neutral arbitrator”. He also hit out at the government’s legislation on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles and said it is “in clear breach of the Stormont House Agreement”.

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“The legislation proposed by Theresa Villiers and her cabinet colleagues has more to do with covering up the role of the British state as a central player in the conflict and its collusion with unionist death squads,” he said. He said that the executive had succeeded in blocking the worst of the Conservative government’s cuts, including the introduction of water charges. He said lower student fees, free prescriptions and lower rates bills were “rarely highlighted successes of the executive and local parties working together”. The Mid Ulster assembly member warned that a return to direct rule will result in an “unrestrained onslaught on public services and the most vulnerable in our society”. Ms Villiers repeatedly warned that if the parties cannot agree a deal on welfare reforms, the British government will take back welfare powers as a “last resort”. Mr McGuinness said as well as welfare cuts previously announced, new cuts to tax credits in April will affect 120,000 families in the north.
<strong>With many thanks to: Claire Simpson, for the origional story, The Irish News.

CUTS ROW BECOMING A FIASCO FOR VILLIERS

Cuts row becoming a fiasco for Villiers.

ON MONDAY the Department for Social Development publushed a report on the reasons people use food banks.

They concluded low income was the main reason. Astonishing. Who’da thought? There’s you thinking people toddled round to a food bank because they couldn’t get a bus to Tesco. You wonder how much that report cost. The banality of the report’s conclusion was matched perfectly by the response of the DSD minister. Go on, try to think of his name. Draw a blank? How appropriate. Here’s what he said almost in English. “Society – not just government – but collectively we need to take a strong look at why this is happening in the North of Ireland.” Surely his report had just told him? People aren’t paid enough. Another reason given was that people had to wait too long for benifit payment’s to kick in after losing their job or becoming to ill to work. Third, but not mentioned are benefit sanctions when people are refused cash because, for example, it’s deemed they aren’t trying to find a job. The minister was asking the wrong question. It’s not a matter of finding reasons for using food banks. It’s why has the number of food banks in the north increased from two, when our proconsul’s nasty government took over in 2010, to more than a dozen now? The reason is obvious. She’s a member of an increasingly unfair, unjust and inequitable government which on her occasional visits to the north she attempts to justify by mouthing irrelevancies designed for her own voters in one of the wealther, healthier parts of London. To give you an idea how much in common she has with people here you might like to know the average gross weekly earnings in her constituency are £675 compared to £518 for the UK as a whole and about £460 here. The average property price in Chipping Barnet is £370,000. Here it’s £120,000. In her constituency two per cent are on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). The north has the highest claim count of the twelve UK regions. Oh, and there’s one food bank in Barnet.

On the basis of her (Villiers) obvious deep experience of poverty in her constituency our proconsul regularly repeats her demand that the parties here sign up to the welfare cuts she wants to impose and pushed through in the Stormont House agreement as the single most important priority. Let’s repeat here again that the financial annexe in the Stormont House agreement is a bye-ball. The Stormont House agreement dealt with the cuts announced in 2012-13, not 2015. The deal embodied in the agreement won’t approach the cuts announced in July never mind the coming autumn statement and the comprehensive spending review. To give them their due, last December only Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) was talking about arrangements to mitigate the impact of cuts for the next five years. Now there’s a glimmer of hope. Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) and the DUP have been edging closer in meetings over the summer towards the point where senior Sinn Féin people think there’s a chance the DUP might come on board to ask the British for an upgraded package to take account of the draconian proposals our proconsul plans to impose next year. The DUP response to George Osborne’s July cuts showed the first sign of alarm. Sammy Wilson, now happily no longer spouting contempt in the assembly, reacted by worrying that the different benefit caps for London and elsewhere were the first indication of regional variations in benefit. Some DUP people fear that presages regional variations in public sector pay which would hit the party’s middle-class voters. Furthermore Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) hope the DUP’s antennae have twitched at the prospect that our proconsul’s instructions from Whitehall will hit the working poor and not just people on benefit stupidly disdained by the DUP as free loaders. Besides, no secretary of state would want to preside over the collapse of the assembly. It wouldn’t look well on her CV after the fiasco of the West Coast franchise which she awarded in 2012 before being reshuffled. While the report on that flawed, erroneous bidding process cleared our proconsul, her Labour shadow minister said, ‘ministers failed completely in their responsibilities’. A second fiasco would look careless.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeney, The Irish news, for the origionial story.

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