Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Carroll: We serve the interests of ordinary people, not London or Brussels


With the Westminster election now just 24 hours away, we hear the views being put forward by two of Northern Ireland's smaller parties, People Before Profit and the Green Party.

Jeremy Corbyn is transforming politics. And he is doing so with some very basic demands: free education, higher taxes on corporations and a programme of borrowing money to create homes and jobs. Basic demands to improve people's lives, therefore. Hardly the storming of The Bastille, as some in the media would have you think.

It is true that living standards would not be transformed overnight if Corbyn became Prime Minister. But there would be some change, at least, a flicker of light for those who have endured a decade of austerity.

But here's the problem. Even if Corbyn were elected people here would not automatically benefit. Most of the changes that Corbyn wants to make remain as devolved matters.

He wants to increase corporation tax, for example, but Sinn Fein and the DUP are intent on doing the very opposite.

Corbyn wants to borrow money to create jobs. But Sinn Fein and the DUP wasted nearly all of our borrowing power on the Civil Service voluntary exit scheme, costing up to 20,000 jobs.

Corbyn wants to reform labour laws. Sinn Fein and the DUP, by contrast, were happy to use Thatcher's anti-trade union laws and showed no interest in repealing them.

And what of free education? Unfortunately, we would still be left with the tuition fees that Stormont has steadfastly refused to abolish. Perhaps Stormont will collapse and Corbyn will enact these policies here. The odds on that are far from certain.

Or maybe we will be left with an unfettered Tory government, or the same old, same old from the Assembly.

Regardless of the outcome of this election and the talks process after it, we will need a voice in the north for the kind of demands Corbyn is calling for. People Before Profit (PBP) is that voice.

And we will need an independent voice like PBP during the Brexit negotiations that does not side with either London or Brussels. PBP is very clear: we will oppose a Tory Brexit, including any calls for a hard border, restrictions on movement or travel.

We want to build a social Europe. But we will also oppose any attempts by the EU to inflict pain on people, or impede sovereignty.

There was a time when we were not the sole voice who did so. In 2003 Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said: "Too much of our sovereignty has already been ceded to EU institutions." In 2014 his colleague Lynn Boylan MEP said: "The people of Ireland are suffering immensely due to the policies of austerity being pushed by the institutions of the EU." We agree with Sinn Fein on both accounts.

It is unclear whether they still agree with themselves.

PBP will demand the voice of the people is heard. We demand a vote on any Brexit deal, north and south, and for the right of people to vote on ceding from the Union, as appears likely in Scotland.

And during any talks we will fight for the things that make a difference: free education, higher taxes on corporations, job creation and the building of homes.

PBP serves neither London nor Brussels, but the interest of the people instead.

  • Gerry Carroll is People Before Profit candidate in West Belfast

Steven Agnew: The UK voter must have the final say on any Brexit deal

Theresa May wants this election to be a referendum on her vision of Brexit. You should not accept that. You've already had one referendum based on false pledges. Like a promise on the side of a bus, a Tory manifesto is not to be trusted.

You must be given all the facts. You must be allowed to make an informed choice. You must have a say on the final Brexit deal.

The Green Party's priority is to secure a referendum on the final deal.

Almost a year on from the EU referendum we still do not know what Brexit means. The small print is still being written.

We do not know what "no hard border" means in reality. We do not know which environmental protections are at risk.

And we do not know what opportunities could be lost for our young people.

We will only fully understand the implications of Brexit when a final deal is put forward. Then it is for you, not Theresa May, to decide whether to accept that deal.

When we get to that point, we must all take a step back, have a reasoned debate on the Brexit deal and you must have your say on its contents. Democracy did not end with the EU referendum.

At present we are negotiating with one arm tied behind our backs. If the UK gets a good deal, we leave; if we don't like the deal on the table, we still leave.

There is no motivation for the EU to make concessions. A referendum on the final deal strengthens our negotiating hand and ensures that the people of the UK get the best deal possible.

The Green Party is also putting you first through the protection of our public services and the promotion of equality for all citizens.

Seven years of year-on-year cuts have devastated our public services. Ever-lengthening waiting lists in our hospitals and an education system going into debt is the result of continuing Tory austerity policies.

That's why we would introduce a wealth tax on the top 1%, which would raise £28bn per year across the UK. Investing this in our health and education systems, we would meet the needs of an ageing population and ensure that our children get the best start in life, including those with special educational needs.

Putting you first also means an equal society, where every member of our community is valued.

As the traditional parties play politics with the future of our Assembly, Green MPs would seek to extend marriage equality laws to Northern Ireland with marriage equality through Westminster.

The Green Party is growing. While other parties are contracting, we are standing candidates across Northern Ireland, fielding more candidates than in any previous Westminster election.

Having increased our representation in the Assembly, there has never been a better chance to elect a Green MP.

Only the Green Party is committed to putting you first - let's get more Greens on the green benches at Westminster.

  • Steven Agnew is leader of Green Party NI

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