Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Sinn Fein's forked-tongue approach just doesn't cut it

Flying high in the opinion polls in the Republic, Sinn Fein speaks from both sides of its mouth when it talks about spending cuts in the south and government budgets in Northern Ireland.

And the coalition parties of Fine Gael and the Labour Party have now joined the SDLP and UUP in Northern Ireland to cast Sinn Fein as hypocrites.

Fianna Fail, its opposition rivals in the Dail, have lashed Sinn Fein's 'spend, spend, spend' message in Dublin, while signing-off on welfare cuts in Belfast.

In the Stormont Executive, Sinn Fein ministers have implemented swingeing spending cuts, while objecting to budget cuts from the opposition benches in the Republic.

Critics dismiss Sinn Fein's claim that the British Government imposes the cuts in various sectors, including welfare, and point out that the party makes a legislative choice by voting for cuts in Northern Ireland. Observers also point out that, in spite of taking millions in expenses, Sinn Fein has consistently refused to take its seats at Westminster to put their case against cuts.

Sinn Fein double-speak was highlighted in March 2010, when Sinn Fein voted in the Assembly to cut government spending by £3bn over four years.

But, in his reply to the Republic's budget nine months later, Caoimhghin O Caolain, its then leader in the Dail, said: "We in Sinn Fein are quite clear: we have rejected the consensus on cuts."

In Dublin, Sinn Fein has called for a €100,000 (£80,000) cap on public servants in the Republic. Yet, in Belfast, a recent recruiting advertisement seeking a CEO for the First Legislative Counsel in the Office of the First and deputy First Minister offers a salary of up to £205,000.

Here are some examples of Sinn Fein's forked-tongue approach, north and south:

Education

In the Republic, Sean Crowe, Sinn Fein's education spokesman, criticised the potential closure of rural schools in February. But, in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein education minister John O'Dowd said a "sustainable schools policy could lead to the closure of 70 schools". Last November, he said: "I have decided to close the [two rural] schools in [Co Armagh], as I am confident the children's needs can be best met at alternative schools."

Household charges

In the Republic, Sinn Fein has repeatedly attacked the introduction of a €100 (£80) household charge. But, in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein in government implements household taxes more than 10 times higher than the proposed household charge in the Republic.

Water charges

In the Republic, Sinn Fein has campaigned against water charges. But Sinn Fein MLA Mitchell McLaughlin has defended water charges here.

Welfare cuts

In the Republic, Sinn Fein has opposed all cuts in social welfare since the economic crisis began. Here, Sinn Fein has signed off on cuts that could total £600m.

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