Union leaders have urged the people of Northern Ireland to stage immediate mass protests against the Government's savage cost-cutting proposals.
Brian Campfield from NIPSA and Peter Bunting of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions were among those who have called the public onto the streets, fuelled by concern about the scope of the coalition's programme to reduce the £155bn deficit.
But, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Stormont finance chief Sammy Wilson has warned it’s “pie in the sky” to expect Northern Ireland to be exempt from the cuts. “The deficit has to be dealt with and I doubt the Government can be forced to rethink the issue,” Mr Wilson said.
“We’ve got a huge debt and it has to be reduced. It’s unlikely that any protest or strike action is going to change their mind.”
Mr Campfield, however, said that he and Mr Bunting were among those who hoped to form a “coalition of civic society” to fight Ulster’s corner.
“We are trying to mobilise people across society in relation to the cuts and we will be working alongside our Scottish and Welsh counterparts to build up opposition to them,” Mr Campfield said.
“If people in Northern Ireland take to the streets along with those elsewhere in the UK these cuts might be prevented.
“If enough pressure is generated and enough people take to the streets and make their demands, we can affect a change in policy.”
Mr Campfield’s comments followed day one of the TUC's 142nd congress — the first under a non-Labour Government since 1996.
The annual gathering backed a motion which called for “a solidarity alliance of unions and communities under threat”.
Mr Campfield said the cuts
planned for Northern Ireland would “decimate” the economy and called for the public to support demonstrations planned for September 29.
“There will be two lunchtime protests at City Hall in Belfast and The Guildhall in Londonderry and we are hoping for big numbers,” he said.
“We are hoping to get the message out to the public that if they do stand up to the Government they can make a difference.” Mr Bunting, assistant general secretary of the Irish congress of Trade Unions, who attended the conference in Manchester, said the Government could be forced to change.
“This crisis was caused by the bankers and yet the burden of paying for this is being foisted on the middle classes and those on benefits,” Mr Bunting said. “We can’t allow that to happen.”