Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein double standards exposed

By Boyd Black

Was it the looming prospect of corporation tax cuts that prompted Sinn Fein to do its U-turn last week?

Parties in the Stormont Executive have little alternative but to go along with the Tory-led austerity agenda - that is the realpolitik of devolution and the block grant.

This is not a problem for the DUP, who are fully signed up to the neo-liberal agenda of the coalition.

It believes that the Northern Ireland public sector is too large and is relatively comfortable with severe retrenchment.

It has naively put its faith in corporation tax cuts and further public sector cuts to generate private sector expansion.

The price of ministerial office for Sinn Fein was an acceptance that spending would be limited by the block grant.

Likewise with the Tory-imposed welfare cuts.

Any topping-up would have to be funded out of the block grant.

Welfare cuts can only be offset at the cost of additional cuts to education and other services, as Minister John O'Dowd has discovered.

Meanwhile, as the Northern Ireland committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions mobilises the trade unions and civic society against these cuts and challenges Sinn Fein at its base, the far Left in the Republic is causing Sinn Fein electoral difficulties over the party's double standards on austerity, north and south.

The reality that the Corporation Tax Bill, with its massive impact on the block grant, will be passed tomorrow must have finally hit home.

The realisation may have dawned that, in pursuit of a symbolic, harmonised corporation tax-rate, the party had been lured into a neo-liberal spider's web that threatened to strangle them - and the rest of us.

Corporation tax cuts, welfare cuts and public sector cuts are all inextricably linked.

Did the prospect, following inevitably from corporation tax cuts, of a further £325m per year in additional cuts in the block grant, with their associated redundancies, finally cause the worm to turn?

Boyd Black is the secretary of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland

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