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Austerity is hurting Ireland, north and south

sinn fein logoPeople in Ireland are struggling under the impact of austerity policies. So too are people in Britain. We often have more in common than we think.

In many countries in the Euro Area the ‘Troika’, the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF have imposed very harsh austerity measures. But in 2008 the Dublin government initiated austerity measures of its own accord, and the current government in the Dáil chooses to load the burden of its policies onto ordinary families and the poor – just like the current Westminster government does in Britain and in my country. This is because both main parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are essentially Tory parties. Unfortunately FG is being propped up in government by the Labour Party.

In both cases the result has been the same. The economies in Ireland and in Britain are stagnating. Austerity is a failed Tory policy both sides of the Irish Sea. We need growth to put people back to work and to improve living standards.

The situation in the North of Ireland is even worse. The NI Assembly has extremely limited powers, and none at all over the most vital issues for most people- how government raises revenues and spends it’s money. It is a basic democratic right that people choose parties who will decide tax and spend policies. The recent 4th of July celebrations are a reminder that the American Revolution was sparked by the slogan ‘no taxation without representation’. In the North of Ireland we have austerity imposed on us by parties that no-one, unionist or nationalist, voted for. That is not democracy.

All of these cuts are done in the name of reducing the public sector deficits. But the deficits have stalled because the economies have stagnated. There is also a great irony here. We are repeatedly told that the Northern Irish economy would collapse without the British ‘subvention’. This is hugely exaggerated and the real deficit position is not nearly as extreme as officially claimed.

Yet deficits are a sign of economic failure and long-term deficits signal structural failure. The fundamental problem remains the dead hand of the British state on this corner of Ireland. Under British rule the northeast corner of Ireland was historically the wealthiest part of the country. Staying with Britain through Partition was an economic disaster for the population of the North. Like other ex-colonies living standards in the South were able to rise dramatically after breaking free from Britain.

These might be controversial views in some quarters. But we in Sinn Féin are a Republicans — with an absolute commitment to freedom and equality for all. We welcome and are actively seeking dialogue with all political forces in Ireland and in Britain who are willing to debate these issues.

A major opportunity for that dialogue will be the Irish Unity conference in London on October 19. Details and registration are here.

Conor Murphy is Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh


  1. Syzygy says:

    The difference is that the UK is a sovereign nation with its own currency. The UK is not at the mercy of the Bond markets and can never run out of money whereas the Republic of Ireland is locked into the Euro. George Osborne is the sole reason for austerity being imposed on the UK.

    For EZ countries, there is a dilemma – federalisation into the undemocratic super-structure of the EU or leaving the Euro and putting the Irish economy to work for the people of Ireland instead of the ‘markets’/rentiers.

  2. Young ulsterman without a tribe says:

    While I acknowledge the right of Sinn Fein to promote whichever policy they or their voters desire, I do feel the need to question how they feel the best way to bring about a socialist society in Northern Ireland can possibly be to pursue an agenda of first creating a united Irish republic and only then to create a socialist system of government and economy.
    Surely the lesson of the last few generations in the North is that the lives of working people cannot be improved by striving as a central goal of a movement to change not the economic reality but essentially dividing people over the issue of nationalism or religion?
    And surely mr murphy you are aware that partition merely created two reactionary regimes that did little for the conditions of working people in the whole of Ireland instead of just one?
    Shouldn’t it be the goal of a progressive organisation to engage people not in the frame of orange and green (which your party has done for decades and to this day through their overt adoption of Irish cultural and national identity as a central foundation of their organisation) but instead in the frame of red and blue, Thatcherite or democratic socialist, capititalist or humanitarian?

  3. Young ulsterman without a tribe says:

    I should make it clear that while I am not averse to a united Ireland or irishness or yourself at all, I wonder if perhaps there is any consideration to devolve more powers from Westminster to Stormont to allow it to function as a representative democracy body while fighting austerity and promoting socialism. And, as a general query to Sinn Fein, in the event of a transition from British to Irish rule of the North, do you envisage Stormont remaining, perhaps not as a consociational body but rather as a proper devolved parliament?

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