Belfast Telegraph

Parties urged to unite against cuts

The Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have failed to challenge the British Government over the cuts being imposed on Stormont, Martin McGuinness has said.

Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister said that, despite the divisions that have emerged over the Assembly budget, it is not too late for ministers to unite against Prime Minister David Cameron over the cuts.

But he said that so far the Ulster Unionists have failed to tackle the Conservative-led government, while he accused the SDLP of being "weak-kneed" at Westminster.

"I have not heard any demands from Ulster Unionist Party leader Tom Elliott for a meeting with David Cameron," he said. "If you consider what has happened, I have not heard him challenge David Cameron."

Mr McGuinness said SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie had described the Government's drastic cuts in funding to Northern Ireland as being "well short of expectations".

And he added: "For Margaret Ritchie to make such a weak-kneed response in the House of Commons clearly shows the SDLP are non-entities at Westminster."

After seven hours of rancorous debate on Wednesday at Stormont, Ulster Unionist ministers Micheal McGimpsey and Danny Kennedy voted against the budget, while SDLP Social Development Minister Alex Attwood simply refused to take part in the vote. The measure was passed with the support of the DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance.

Mr McGuinness criticised all three breakaway ministers, but said of Mr Attwood's actions: "In the final analysis, it turned out that Alex didn't have the courage of the Ulster Unionist Party's convictions."

Mr McGuinness said: "I think the debate on the budget did a disservice to the people here in the north. I think that some parties have lost focus. The backdrop to this was the British government cutting the block grant and walking away from their commitments.

"I think that the dishonest politics of some do absolutely nothing to deal with the reality that the cuts that have been imposed on us have actually come from multi-millionaires in London who haven't got the foggiest notion of what life is like for working class people here in the north."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph