Sunday, October 10, 2010

Martin, Ulster fry and the Tories

Well, who would have thought it? Martin McGuinness sitting with a bunch of Unionists eating an Ulster Fry at a fringe meeting of the British Conservative Party conference. OMG!

Okay, I’ll try and look beyond the obvious confusion at seeing a major republican figure sitting in the company he was at the venue he was, but what was he doing there?

Martin is Deputy First Minister of the six counties and he is in a coalition government with Unionists, okay we accept this fact. The British government is planning on imposing massive public expenditure cuts that if introduced will destroyed the lives of thousands of working class people. So the coalition partners in the Northern government head to the Conservative conference to argue the case for not introducing the cuts in the North. Okay I can accept that.

As Martin said at the assembly prior to his trip, “Let me be very clear, Sinn Féin will oppose the unfair and unjust proposed cuts by the British Government; our position remains that we must grow our economy, protect those most vulnerable in our society and ensure that we work to meet the requirements of those in most objective need.”

Also an excellent piece in An Phoblacht argues the case against the cuts and the need to move power over the Northern economy away from London and back to Ireland. This article concludes with this paragraph.

United resistance“As a party we are looking to build an alliance with the trade union movement and the community and voluntary sector to resist the cuts and to defend frontline services,” Mitchel said. “The public sector did not create the economic crisis – it was the private sector.
“We should not accept the inevitability of cuts. We should focus our minds on challenging them. All parties should agree a common approach in all of this.
“We need to enter into a negotiation with the British Government to resist cuts and secure proper control of the economic levers which will allow us to map a way out of the current recession and to protect the most vulnerable and those experiencing disadvantage at the same time.”
“We need to plan to grow the economy and all options must be on the table. This includes the development and harmonisation of the all-island economy. The existence of two currencies, two different tax and social welfare regimes, two health services, and so on, all restrict our ability to effectively tackle the effects of the recession.
“We need to end needless duplication and develop efficient systems that benefit everyone on this island.”


All of the above I have no problem with and indeed support. We entered into the GFA in order to build a better Ireland, with Ireland’s future being determined by Irish people. So, all of the above in my mind fits into this category.

BUT, what if the attempt to build a successful opposition to Tory/Lib cuts fails to stop the cuts? What then?

I believe we cannot allow our party to be a tool to implement massive cuts in services across the North. We cannot accept that we are powerless to resist the inevitability of these cuts and therefore our job is to make them as palatable and painless as possible.

If we were to allow this to happen we would be heading for disaster North and South of the border.

At present in the South we are attacking the major party consensus on the need for cuts. We are organizing a mass march in Dublin on 4th December against these cuts and we are right to do this. However, whether we like it or not we are judged by most people as a largely Northern party, and if people want to vote for us they will look to our record in the North as proof or what we really are all about. If Martin’s Ulster fry up fails to stop the cuts then the party must fight them in every way possible and refuse to implement them.

If this does not happen then people across the 32 counties will make their own judgments on Martin’s trip to the Tory Conference, and they will make up there own mind as to who and what we are all about.


  1. its a sit down or a blow up so the torys know
    which side of there toast has got jam on it

    nothing wrong with the economy plenty wrong with the torys-
    they are going to spend 20 billion on a new range of trident nukes when the people want a new range of hospitals and roads and schools and.....................

  2. If Sinn Féin implement cuts in the North you are finished as a southern party. Sin é.

  3. Aint calling for cuts but regret to say i think the soths electorate dont give much of a fiddlers for what sf do in the north. As said aint caling for cuts just dont agree that the north's politics influences much down south.

  4. If Sinn Fein is really a left wing party it won't implement the cuts agenda in the North. Instead it will cross the floor and sit on the opposition benches, thus upsetting the cosy sectarian consensus and putting class before creed.
    Unfortunately, Sinn Fein is a catholic party and large swathes of its electiorate would no longer a party that truly keeps left and rejects the sectarian politics of the Stormont coalition. So, if the cuts go ahead we'll get SF and the rest of them blaming the Brits while implementing the cuts. What a load of shite.

  5. So Justin, If SF refuse to implement cuts in the North will you change your opinion?

  6. Hi Mellows,

    I will be very pleasantly surprised if Sinn Fein does anything other than blame the Brits while dishing out the cuts.

    In September 2006 submissions to the economic subgroup of the ‘preparation for government committee’ Sinn Fein said, ‘We should say yes to goal driven tax incentives which increase R&D activity, aid new product and process innovation, enhance worker training and development, help our entrepreneurs break into new markets and aid environmental improvements.’

    This hardly smacks of keeping left in my opinion. Nor indeed could Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy be described as a socialist firebrand. His Department for Regional Development’s has come up with a tansport plan which involves “awarding performance-based contracts ... either to Translink or in some circumstances, subject to open competition”. The creeping privatisation of public transport may not be official SF policy but it is what Conor Murphy’s department is planning to do. And by their deeds shall ye know them.

    So if SF turns its back on communalism and builds a movement of opposition to cuts based on class identification and class politics, I will be very surprised indeed.

  7. "We should say yes to goal driven tax incentives which increase R&D activity, aid new product and process innovation, enhance worker training and development, help our entrepreneurs break into new markets and aid environmental improvements."

    to be honest Justin I dont see much wrong with those items as there is a need or creating employment and keeping people working.

    "This hardly smacks of keeping left in my opinion" - but why not? Keeping left must mean that as successful a defence as possible is made for the interests of ordinary people. It means ensuring businesses dont get to ride rough shod over people ignoring their interests but likewise ensuring that there are jobs for people.

  8. An Giorra, a chara

    Call me hard-left if you will, but any policy proposal which aims both to help workers and entrepreneurs equally will face, if put into practice, the real-world opposition between the interests of these two groups.

    Moreover, unless I'm mistaken, in the real world, "goal driven tax incentives" = reducing the corporation tax in order to bring in foreign multinationals. In May 2007 Gerry Adams was calling on loyalists to sign up to a united ireland so that all could get the benefits of the Tiger:
    "Our argument is if there is a Celtic Tiger, why should it stop at the border? Why cannot it come into East Belfast?
    "Is anyone telling me loyalists of East Belfast are not going to accept jobs and the economic dividends that would come out of a 32 county Celtic Tiger?"

    Again, hardly left-wing thinking. Finally, here is another party proposal on the economy:

    Our Party advocates a multi-strategy approach to economic development. This would include both medium and long term goals across the following sectors:
    • Selective Intervention to retain and expand the local economic base.
    • Target setting for inward investment in disadvantaged areas.
    • Establishment of local capital finance funds to support entrepreneurs and business start ups.
    • Increased financial support for local research and development projects.

    • Creation of secure social economy employment. This should include poverty support teams, environmental task forces and sports development.
    This party continues to hold at its core the belief that all economic strategies need to include an element that seeks to alleviate poverty. We therefore propose and increase in the minimum wage for 16-18 years olds and employment rights for migrant workers.

    What do you think of this, from the website of the Progressive Unionist party?

  9. Hi Justin, I wont call you hard left for saying that. I think we need to move beyond the tendency to pidgeon hole others and ourselves into hard left/far left which make us miss common ground. I was thinking of the same tension between wrkers and Biz interest. There are also mutual interests. at the least I think policies should be formulated from the perspective that there are tensions and differences but also opportunites for mutual advantage. We can still be a party that with the workers but mindful of when policies can be nominally pro-business but also pro-worker. Its a tightrope to walk but then same for every route we choose. I dont see that as drift to the right but rather recognising that while the relationship in question can be exploitative when left unregulated there are many instances of common opportunity.
    ' "goal driven tax incentives" = reducing the corporation tax in order to bring in foreign multinationals. '
    It could well be a recommendation for lower corporate tax . The whole sentence is "goal driven tax incentives which increase (1) R&D activity, (2)aid new product and process innovation, (3)enhance worker training and development, (4) help our entrepreneurs break into new markets and (5) aid environmental improvements.’ The aims of the incentives seem to be very specific - R&D, innovation, training, new markets and while it could be argued that those types of goals could be achieved by a general policy of lowering corporate tax and would be resulting by-products of Foreign Investment I dont believe its what the sentence was getting at. I think it was focussed on those 5 specfic targets. I was looking through the party document on economic strategy in the north of the country and they have listed one of the recommendations as "tax incentives for R&D" and recommend the use of two EU programmes which "are designed to increase the use of financial engineering instruments help regions and cities meet their investment needs". Regardin Gerry's speech I dont see much thats wrong with it. Why should wealth and jobs not flow into east Belfast.Do communities liek E.Belfast tend to regard any move towards a UI as a zero sum game - attainment of a UI means destruction of the loyalist identity. The argument being made seems to be that at the least in a UI East Belfast would be made a more vibrant and prosperous community. What would have been the alternative argument to be made - that rather than consider prosperity another appeal should be made to building common ground amongst the working class of both communities. Note I am not against that approach but I believe the engagement with loyalist communities cannot solely be reduced to an economic argument of common working class interest. It cannot solely be based on a call for mutual action as a class because that is to limit the engagement to a solely economic sphere when surely there is both an economic and a cultural element to be addressed. I regard the above as an engagement based on reassurance to loyalists that at the least a UI can improve their lot without seeking to destroy their identity - ie they have a place. Simultaneously SF can work to engage with working class loyalists by demonstrating the common interests they have what ever cultural/political aspiration they have.the need to engage on multiple levels/with muliple approaches is there and as a result there will always be elements of speeches and arguments that wont sound very left wing.
    PUP stuff sounds grand. Most of the items that they have listed would be the same as what the SF economic policies are calling for .They remain very high level though.
    Justin, there is an open invitation from Starry Plough, whose site this is - I only guest post as a SF supporter - to write pieces around which activists, supporters and wider interested parties can engage in positive and constructive discussion. He (or she) has an email address on the side and if you wanted to write something I am sure it would be happily received.

  10. wrote too much and had to edit. Meant to say not to pidgeon hole ourselves/others into far left social dem/ dem soc etc cause far as I can see everyone seems to have a different idea of what those things mean