Fermanagh activist Donal O’Cofaigh has condemned the Stormont Executive parties record on failing working families and the vulnerable.
Mr O’Cofaigh, speaking on behalf of the Socialist Party stated “Research just released by Oxfam has confirmed that the austerity cuts which all the Assembly Executive parties are implementing have thrown record numbers into poverty and contributed to a gaping chasm between a rich, corporate elite and the working class who have been forced to pay the price for the bank bailout and an economic collapse caused by the irrational speculation of coupon-clippers and financiers.
“The research identifies that as a result of austerity policies jointly implemented by the DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP, SDLP and Alliance Parties, 22% of the population in Northern Ireland now live below the poverty line.
“The report’s findings also highlight the surge in ‘working poor’ households who are struggling to break even. They are paying the price of the Assembly’s failure to support public sector investment and job creation; today 25% of working households in the North do not make what is considered a living wage.
“The worst impact of these policies, however, has been on those individuals and families with the lowest incomes – the most vulnerable in our society. They have lost 38% of their disposable income as they are caught in the vice of ever tightening austerity policies and cuts and rising consumer price inflation. This contraction in economic demand has directly contributed to pressures on an economy largely dependent on domestic consumption, resulting in a secondary ‘multiplier’ contraction that has decimated small traders and regional commercial hubs and thrown even more workers onto dole queues and into part-time hours.
“A recent submission by Unite the union on local economic development identified a variety of mechanisms even within the current framework that allow the Assembly to take forward an economic development package. Such an approach would generate large numbers of decent jobs through much needed investment upgrading publicly-owned water and electricity infrastructure and facilitate a transition to a more sustainable economy.
“But the Assembly parties have ignored this alternative preferring a failed approach to economic development which will force even greater public sector cuts to pay for further corporate tax-breaks and ever more desperate smoke and mirror PR exercises spinning Foreign-Direct Investment or Fracking as ‘magic-bullet’ solutions which they promise will dispell the realities of the economic catastrophe afflicting our society.
“Working people have been failed by local parties which remain committed to playing divisive political games instead of facing up to economic realities. There is a burning need for a political alternative bringing together working class people from all communities on the basis of a clear, socialist alternative to sectarian and right-wing austerity policies.”