Northern MLAs Quarrel Over Cuts

As MLAs who want the impact of the UK's Spending Review lessened for the North were warned they are "living in cloud-cuckoo land", Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has branded £4bn of NI cutbacks "unacceptable".

Mr Adams has already said Chancellor George Osborne showed "the awful ignorance of a British Tory minister in dictating how people here should live".

He repeated that the Government should be "stimulating, not slashing" the economy.

However, this morning DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson addressed a special debate at Stormont to discuss how the review will affect Northern Ireland.

The Assembly was recalled from its Halloween break for a special sitting after Sinn Fein and the SDLP tabled a joint motion to debate the cuts, saying the most "vulnerable in society" will be hit the hardest.

However, Mr Wilson said Northern Ireland parties had to be realistic, despite Mr Adams saying the cuts would "decimate" public services and hit the poor "10 times harder than the wealthy".

The Sinn Fein MLA and MP said there was "a positive and achievable alternative to the Tory slash-and-burn approach".

"Let us focus on the assault by that Government on public services, on lower and middle income families, on people on social welfare, and on the most vulnerable sections of our people," he said this morning.

Against a background that the First and Deputy First Ministers have requested a meeting with the Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the cuts and to seek assurances over £18bn of funding for NI made by Gordon Brown in 2007 and news that First Minister Peter Robinson has again accused the coalition Government of breaking promises over the funding, there is continuing acrimony at Stormont.

As Finance Minister Sammy Wilson again warned that Northern Ireland will indeed have to make savings of at least £4bn over four years, the Sinn Fein MLA for West Belfast and member of the Social Development Committee at Stormont, Fra McCann, has also been speaking out.

He welcomed a decision to include local advice groups in a body being set up to examine the cuts: "We want a consensus on that, based on the propositions we have put forward, and we are open to other propositions as well," Mr McCann said.

"We were informed at this weeks Social Development Committee that the Minister is to include these groups.

"This is an essential move in order to provide a comprehensive and honest assessment in regards to the severity of the slashing cuts announced by the Tory government that will impact heavily on the most vulnerable within our society."

Sinn Fein MLA and Executive Minister Conor Murphy has also stated that the Executive should now prepare a united approach to fighting the punitive cuts being brought forward by the British government.

This follows today's Executive meeting on the Comprehensive Spending Review and the affect it will have on the local economy: "This is a disaster for the local economy, especially the construction industry.

"There is no fairness in devastating one of the main sectors of the northern economy, as there is no fairness in attacking the most vulnerable in society through attacks on pensions, benefits and low-income families," he said, despite Mr Wilson's assertion that the whole scenario is a 'done-deal'.


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