A West Belfast Sinn Féin councillor has spoken out against welfare cuts and said the DUP must take some of the blame for deprivation in the Protestant community.
Jim McVeigh, who is the party’s leader on Belfast City Council, reiterated that the party are “implacably opposed to the Tory cuts agenda in the North” and said this is particularly so in relation to welfare cuts.
“We are opposed to what is essentially a savage attack upon some of our most vulnerable citizens simply because we believe it is an unfair and deeply destructive strategy,” he told the Andersonstown News.
“Of all of the political parties, Sinn Féin remains a party deeply embedded in the working class communities we represent. We know at first hand how these welfare cuts will impact on real individuals and real families. No matter the cost, we intend to stand firmly against these cuts.”
Highlighting education as a major problem, Cllr McVeigh said the DUP must shoulder the blame.
“In a recent Community Relations Council report,” he said, “our attention was drawn to the particularly poor educational achievements among a section of the Protestant working class and the sense of hopelessness that pervades some of these communities. A phenomenon that has existed for decades.
“Not only have the mainstream unionists parties failed to highlight these difficulties but they have spent the past number of years opposing Sinn Féin’s attempts to introduce a more equitable education system. A system that ironically would assist those most deprived Protestant communities.
“How can this be? How can it be possible that a party like the DUP, representing some of the most deprived Protestant communities, can care so little about the destructive impact of these cuts? Of course we realise that the DUP is not a monolith, it is a party of diverse social classes and opinions but at its core and among its key leadership, it is essentially a Unionist Tory party. This is a party that at heart believes in the welfare cuts agenda. This is a party that believes in a laissez faire approach to society and the economy. It’s leadership have long since left its working class roots behind and have become a unionist political aristocracy.”
The Lower Falls councillor called on the DUP to stand with Sinn Féin to show a united front against the cuts for the benefit of the whole community.
“There is an alternative to the cuts strategy being driven from Westminster,” he said. “If we instead stand together, unionist and republican, Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, we can negotiate a better deal for all of our citizens.
“As Scotland approaches a referendum on independence, the Tory/Lib Dem coalition is feeling vulnerable. The last thing they want is another ‘region’ causing trouble at this delicate moment. It is our firm belief that if Peter Robinson and his ministerial team stands with Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin on this crucial matter, we can secure a more favourable deal for the most vulnerable in our community.
“Despite the ideological bent of the DUP leadership, it is not too late for a change of tactic, if not a change of heart. The DUP can be encouraged from within its own electoral constituency to change its current position. We must close ranks and present a united front to the government in London. We can and we must secure a better deal for our most vulnerable of citizens.
“Those Protestants who have been left on the dole queue, with no hope or opportunity, have already been let down by the unionist parties, they don’t deserve to be let down again.”