Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Politicians should show united front

Just who will First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness be speaking for when they meet the Chancellor, George Osborne, today to discuss the impending public spending cuts?

They certainly cannot argue convincingly that they are speaking on behalf of a united devolved administration, even if they are articulating the views of the vast majority of people in the province.

For, at a time when the Executive should be speaking with one voice, putting forward a cohesive and coherent argument against implementing cuts on a scale which could plunge the province into a new recession, ministers are |divided on their approach. That is a recipe for disaster.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is in the unenviable position of being unable to begin drawing up a post-cuts budget because some ministers are refusing to draft projections of how they will cope with budget reductions of up to 25%. It is simply not an option to pretend that severe cuts in the block grant are not on the way. Sinn Fein is mounting a campaign against the cuts — which is their right — but simultaneously declining to budget for them.

That is a strategy which cannot succeed.

Unionists launched many ‘Ulster says no’ campaigns over the years which all failed and Sinn Fein’s version can do nothing but attempt to save face for republicans in the face of ‘sell-out’ cries from their sternest republican critics.

Statistics just published show that one in five of Northern Ireland’s young people — aged 18-24 — are unemployed. This situation will only worsen if politicians continue to score petty party points rather than seek to secure the maximum funding possible for the province at a time of austerity.

We have sound historical reasons — high unemployment, the security situation, lack of investment during the Troubles — to make a strong case to the Chancellor. Instead we are disarming Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness before they can even go to battle on our behalf.

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