Martin McGuinness: Sinn Fein will stand up to Tory austerity by a Cabinet made up of millionaires
The Conservative-led austerity agenda is the single greatest threat to the people of Northern Ireland and its political institutions. Sinn Fein wants to see the return of economic powers to the hands of locally elected representatives, says Martin McGuinness.
In a week's time, voters have an opportunity to change politics in the north. The choice is clear: they can vote to continue with the failed policies of the Tory-led administration at Westminster and their supporters within unionism; or they can choose the progressive politics of Sinn Fein.
We have made a clear commitment to voters ahead of this election. Sinn Fein will continue to resist the disastrous agenda of Tory austerity in Ireland, north and south.
It is now becoming increasingly clear that the next British Government, regardless of its party-political make-up, will continue to impose austerity on our society. It will continue to take decisions based on the interests of the people of England - not of citizens here.
Sinn Fein has made defending the most vulnerable, the protection of public services and the delivery of a new and better future key priorities at this election.
During the Stormont House negotiations, we demonstrated once again that it is possible to take an effective stand against the Tory assault and to deliver for our people.
We successfully negotiated a significantly enhanced package of welfare protections for some of the most vulnerable people within our society. Those agreements must now be delivered.
Progress made in recent years is now being undermined as a result of four years of Tory cuts and austerity targeting public services and the most vulnerable. They are threatening further cuts of up to £30bn after this election. This is not acceptable, or sustainable.
Austerity imposed from London is the price citizens are paying for the Union. That is economically wrong and fundamentally undemocratic. Our economy, our society and our future should be in the hands of a government accountable to and elected by our citizens.
This austerity agenda is the single greatest threat to the people of the north and its political institutions. The absence of fiscal powers have made the Executive's task even more difficult.
The political institutions in the north need to move to the next stage - financial powers need to be transferred to the Assembly and the Executive.
It is the people who live here who make the best decisions, not a Cabinet of millionaires in London.
Taxes raised here should stay here and the Executive should decide how they are spent. It is only with independence and self-determination that we will have the ability to determine out own future.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, Sinn Fein will seek an immediate negotiation with the incoming British Government to secure a workable budget, including the reinstatement of £1.5bn to the block grant, to support job creation and the delivery of strong public services.
We also want to see the return of economic powers to the hands of locally elected representatives. This includes full control over income tax, national insurance, corporation tax, capital gains tax, borrowing powers and the setting of the minimum wage.
Sinn Fein also believes in a fair economy for all. That is why we will prioritise job creation, both in terms of attracting inward investment and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. We will also work to create a border economic development zone to harmonise trade and maximise returns for border businesses.
We will work to ensure greater security of employment for workers by ending zero-hour contracts. We will also encourage people to find employment through the provision of quality, affordable childcare.
Alongside opposing austerity, our commitment to equality means standing up to sectarianism, homophobia and racism.
We are committed to increasing the number of women in politics and public life. Three out of four of our MEPs are women, as are three out of five of our Executive ministers and 50% of our ruling executive, the ard chomhairle. Sinn Fein is calling for the powers to bring forward legislation to introduce gender quotas for candidates.
We will also promote an Acht Gaelige and a bill of rights for all citizens.
Sinn Fein remains focused on promoting reconciliation and delivering a process for truth, justice and dealing with the past.
In the aftermath of the election, we could be faced with a referendum on membership of the European Union. It is clear that the north has benefited greatly from being in Europe, particularly our farming and agricultural communities.
If the incoming British Government does press ahead with plans for an in-out referendum, the north must have its own separate and binding vote.
As part of our commitment to uniting communities and uniting Ireland, we will also continue to campaign for a border poll on Irish unity.
So, on May 7, the voters of the north have a clear choice between equality and austerity. While other parties are seeking to prop up Labour or Tories and their policy of cuts for narrow political agenda, Sinn Fein will be relentless in seeking the best deal for all our people. We have achieved more in direct negotiations with the British Government than other parties have in decades on the backbenches of Westminster.
This election is an opportunity to take a stand against the Westminster politics of austerity and for a vision of a united, prosperous, equal and inclusive Ireland.
Sinn Fein is the only party in the north in this election which is both firmly opposed to austerity and has a proven track record in negotiations.
Sinn Fein has the team and the determination to stand up for our communities and to stand up to the Tories.
The choice for voters is simple. On May 7, votail Sinn Fein.
- Martin McGuinness is Deputy First Minister.