What’s the Alternative to Stormont’s Austerity Budget?


The Socialist Party believes that the consultation on Stormont’s draft Budget should take place “on the streets”. Protestant and Catholic working class people should unite in their tens of thousands and say no to austerity and no to more cuts.

Recovery has only benefitted the rich and according to the latest Ulster Bank survey the Northern Ireland economy is slowing down. The DUP/Sinn Féin’s austerity budget will speed up this slowdown and may even push the economy into recession as they take hundreds of millions out of the local economy and throw thousands of public sector workers onto the dole.

The DUP Finance Minister Simon Hamilton with a juvenile smile and some glee gave his Budget speech saying that “their” hands were tied, that there was no alternative. Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness backed up this view as Sinn Féin united with their government partners. Sounding like any other establishment politician McGuinness said; “Not to have agreed a budget today ran the real risk of this administration collapsing and anybody that does not realise that I think needs to give themselves a shake. This is about taking responsible decisions it is about taking tough decisions…”

The trade union movement has a crucial role in the struggle against this Budget. At over 200,000 strong they are still the biggest non-sectarian force in which Protestant and Catholic working class people are united. However, the ICTU leaders, with a few notable exceptions, have done nothing of significance to oppose the cuts. They have been involved in an unholy alliance with the sectarian politicians in Stormont – with the remit of ensuring that the power-sharing structures continue. Yet the price for this false unity with the Orange and Green Tories in the house on the hill has been a massive attack on public services and the living standards of working class people. Those in the trade unions who say wait for Labour to be in the next government must think we are fools. If he wins, Ed Miliband will continue implementing austerity where Cameron left off.

A mass movement against the cuts can be built. The Socialist Party backs the call by NIPSA for a one-day public sector strike in the New Year. But one day of strike action will not defeat the cuts. There needs to be sustained industrial action including further public sector strikes and an appeal to private sector workers to join rallies and demonstrations in opposition to the cuts on strike days.

Local communities across Northern Ireland should follow the example of the people of Ballycastle, Bangor and Omagh who have already begun to fight back and oppose the closure and running down of their local health services. The public sector unions should call demonstrations and rallies all across Northern Ireland to give working class people a focal point to express their anger and opposition to the cuts.

Local anti-cuts campaigns focused on defending local services could link up and unite with the public sector workers industrial action and build an unstoppable force, which could defeat Stormont and Westminster’s cuts.

Such a struggle in Northern Ireland would be a beacon and example to the working class in England, Scotland and Wales to also rise up and fight the austerity being implemented by Westminster, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. A united movement of working class people across Britain and Northern Ireland could end austerity and instead demand that alternative economic path be taken that puts the interests of people before the profits of big business.

The DUP and Sinn Féin echo the rhetoric from Cameron and Miliband that there is no alternative – They cynically ask, “where will be money come from?” According to the PCS union tax evasion by businesses was £82 billion last year! If those taxes were collected there would be no need for any cuts. Twenty percent of UK big businesses pay no corporation tax! And the tax cuts announced at Tory Party conference by the millionaire Tory Chancellor Osborne will give a massive £7 billion handout to the rich.

There is plenty of wealth in society the problem is who controls it and how it is used.

We need to build a new political party in Northern Ireland – a non-sectarian working class party that unites Protestants and Catholics in a struggle against austerity and also sectarianism – and for a new type of society in which the wealth and resources that working class people create are used to benefit all – a socialist society.

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