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Southern voters rejected Sinn Fein cuts policies

The key lesson of the southern election is that the Irish people are looking for leadership to get them out of the economic morass in which our island has found itself.

Regardless of the spin, the Sinn Fein position was rejected by the overwhelming majority of the electorate.

The outgoing government parties lost 66 seats from 2007. Sinn Fein won only 10 of these. Fianna Fail lost 24% of the vote while their coalition partners in the Greens lost 2.8%. Sinn Fein won, more or less, what the Greens lost.

The electorate saw the chasm between Sinn Fein's northern and southern positions. You cannot credibly oppose unavoidable cuts in Muff, Co Donegal and impose avoidable cuts a few yards over the border in Culmore, Co Derry.

The seriously flawed draft Northern Ireland budget is based on Sammy Wilson's assertion that we have to live with the cuts. The DUP/Sinn Fein cuts cheerleader is wrong - what we need to do is deal with them.

In May's Assembly election, faced with the record of two parties who have failed to meet the challenges of the economic crisis and the budget squeeze, the SDLP are looking forward to fighting for votes on the basis of who can best protect services and create jobs. The lesson from the south is that people are hungry for it.

POL CALLAGHAN (SDLP)

MLA for Foyle

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