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