Sinn Fein's McGuinness defends budget spending cuts
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has defended his role in handling cuts in Northern Ireland while his party is opposing cuts in the Republic of Ireland.
The all-island party has faced criticism for attacking dramatic cuts in the south where it is in opposition, while preparing to axe funding north of the border where it is in government.
Mr McGuinness claimed his party faced £4 billion in cuts imposed on Stormont by the British Government but had successfully eased the burden by devising a budget plan with more than £1 billion of revenue-raising ideas.
He claimed the Fianna Fail-led Irish Government's budget, cutting 15 billion euro (£12.7 billion) over four years to help save its crisis-hit economy, had hurt society's poorest, and he added: "We have done the opposite."
Mr McGuinness said Northern Ireland cuts were enforced by the British Chancellor's hard-hitting Comprehensive Spending Review.
But he said the Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition, which came to office in Dublin three years ago, was to blame for its own economic woes.
"At the time we were described by Fianna Fail as economic illiterates," said the Deputy First Minister.
"Well, the people of Ireland now know who the economic illiterates are."
He stressed that circumstances north and south of the Irish border were different.
"It's different here by dint of the fact that our budget is controlled by a British Government in London, and now a Tory-led Government. It is that Government that has imposed the cuts on us.
"It is not us who have imposed those cuts on our people. We have done the opposite.
"We've looked at what we had to deal with, in terms of the Comprehensive Spending Review, and we decided that that wasn't good enough.
"If we were to do that, it would have meant far greater unemployment in the north, far more people out of work, far more damage done to the prospects of growing our economy, to protecting frontline services, protecting jobs and helping the most disadvantaged within our society.
"We challenged ourselves, and all of the good ideas that came out, which have allowed us to base our budgetary predictions on the revenue-raising that we have successfully dealt with, puts us in a completely different position than the conditions in Dublin."