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"Selfish Strategic and Economic Interest"

Mark Devenport | 16:52 UK time, Saturday, 27 November 2010

Back in 1986 Peter Robinson's selfish interest in the south concentrated on not spending too long behind bars after his arrest during the loyalist incursion into Clontibret. But today he was able to take on the role of the concerned neighbour, wishing to see his southern cousin drag itself out of its current economic plight.

The use of the phrase "selfish strategic and economic interest" was quite deliberate - harking back to Peter Brooke's speech in 1990 (in which he said Britain had no such interest in Northern Ireland). The Brooke speech served as a signal to Irish republicans that they should pursue a negotiated solution. The Robinson speech is intended to portray a settled situation in which Gerry Adams has given up on hoping his West Belfast seat will ever be part of a United Ireland, and the north and south are comfortable about mutual cooperation.

Although there were occasional barbs towards Gerry Adams, Caitriona Ruane and Margaret Ritchie, the DUP leader's speech did not include any specific reference to his partner in government Martin McGuinness. Someone else notable by his absence was the new Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott. Other DUP politicians threw brick bats at the UUP, but Mr Robinson, now seeking to broaden his party's appeal, treated them as, more or less, an irrelevance.

If there were few remarkable passages in today's conference spech, then it was well to remember the astounding political survival act which made today's gathering possible. In the immediate wake of the revelations over his wife's personal and financial affairs and the loss of his own Westminster seat few would have given Mr Robinson much chance of survival. But there he was, receiving a warm reception and talking with conviction about strengthening the party (although he didn't specify whether recapturing East Belfast would be a job he would take on, or one he intends to sub contract to another DUP politician).

I have recorded an interview with Mr Robinson for tomorrow's Inside Politics during which he argues that Sinn Fein's increased southern focus (in the light of their by-election victory and Gerry Adams' switch to Louth) should spur republicans to reach a budget deal. His logic - that Sinn Fein can hardly present themselves as economic saviours south of the border if they cannot conduct budget negotiations competently at Stormont.

Is this the case or will the need to stand against cuts in the south have a negative impact on Sinn Fein's willingness to cut deals in the north? Martin McGuinness's speech in London on Friday night lacerated the Secretary of State Owen Paterson for playing party politics with the process here. Mr McGuinness drew analogies with what he portrayed as the failure of the Conservatives under John Major. Mr Paterson has ruled out any further negotiations on the Spending Review, insisting that the allocation is a settlement, not a basis for discussion.

We've been here before - John Major insisted the Downing Street Declaration was not open for negotiation. However Sinn Fein came back with demands for "clarification". It seems frankly unlikely that George Osborne will clarify, discuss or negotiate his decision any more. So will Sinn Fein take "no" for an answer?


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  • 1. At 11:28pm on 27 Nov 2010, eyeswideopen1 wrote:

    So will Sinn Fein take "no" for an answer? The same question will be asked of both the British and Irish Governments in the times ahead. Sinn Fein and all right thinking people will fight the cuts brought about by both governments converting private debt into public debt.

    Mr Robinson should have told his followers that to fight the cuts isn,t being disloyal. In fact unionist politicians over the years should have been at the side of the working class on social issues like houseing and education. One hopes in the times ahead that the Dup and other unionists don,t make the mistake of trying to sectarianise the issue of budget cuts. This Budget will lead to major cuts to public services, wage cuts, job losses, attacks on benefits and further tax cuts for the super-rich.

    “We have to accept there are difficult times ahead”, “tough decisions have to be made”, “everyone accepts cuts are necessary” This is the mantra we are being bombarded with from all sides; from the big business media, all the main political parties and the bosses’ organisations. They say that we’re all in this together, and that we all have to make sacrifices to deal with the public deficit. But what they actually mean is that workers,pensioners the young people and the middle-class both nationalist and unionist have to bear the brunt of the economic crisis created by the bankers and speculators. If there is a rally in your area against the cuts join in. It and every other peacefull demonstration shows the govenments that the people won,t be held accountable for the actions of govenment of ther social experiments.

    eyes wide open fight the cuts

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  • 2. At 2:09pm on 28 Nov 2010, NoFool wrote:


    "Fight the cuts".

    How, exactly? What strategy do you offer? You are totally correct that daylight robbery is taking place, and that it is wrong. It is not enough to have a "what" - you need a "how" too.

    Very few here would argue that we have been under-funded. The question is what to do about it.

    MD suggested that "Sinn Fein can hardly present themselves as economic saviours south of the border if they cannot conduct budget negotiations competently at Stormont."

    So what exactly are SF suggesting, that would increase the budget here? We know what they are against - acceptance - fair enough as far as it goes, but what alternatives are put forward? None!

    As I said in a previous comment - a main plank of the SF "alternative plan" for here was to charge mobile phone operators £2,000 per mast per month. (OK as far as that part), and then ask the operators not to pass on the charges to their customers! Anyone else see where this plan could fail?

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  • 3. At 10:13pm on 29 Nov 2010, eyeswideopen1 wrote:

    In the south Sinn fein has put forward a comprehensive pre buget submission. Central the the Submission is the need for economic stimulus to protect and create jobs. Competitiveness will not be secured on the back of cheap, insecure labour. Families on the breadline is not the answer to our problems, reductions in the minimum wage or running down protections for workers is not the solution. What can be done? Saving must and can be made in a way that is equitable and does not injure the long term goal of a sustainable economy. Sinn Féin set out proposals for raising the €2billion which the government is now implementing through totally unfair cuts. Mispaid bonuses and overblown salaries must be retrieved, there must be a cap on salaries of banking executives and an immediate abolition of their bonuses.
    We need to know the extent of the banks bad debts. The time for speculation as to the state of the banks balance sheets is over.
    We need to have the truth. An independent inspector must, on behalf of the taxpayer, establish their liabilities.
    We need a new, robust financial regulatory system.
    The banks must pay back the taxpayers money while working in the state’s interest.
    Sinn Féin has long demanded reform with the ending of tax shelters and tax exile status, the ending of the scandal where middle income workers are taxed at the same rate as those earning hundreds of thousands of euros.
    Currency differentials and VAT rate differentials hurt business and the consumer. We need VAT harmonisation,tax harmonisation and nurture a dynamic all Ireland economy.

    At stormont Sinn Fein held back and didn,t roll over at the first signs of cuts from westminister. Commenting on sinn Feins budget proposals Joint first minister Peter Robinson said "They have obviously put some thought into this document and there are aspects which in my view are completely off the wall, but there are other aspects which are in common with things we have been talking about". "I think there are issues worth considering and having further discussion about."
    Speaking in recent days joint first minister Martin McGuinness said "The objective is to put a budget in place and to be quite honest, I have considerable confidence, given the discussions I've been involved in, that we will be able to do that" Responding to this the DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson welcomed Mr McGuinness' comments. The minister also stated "Don't forget, it's not just Sinn Fein, there are other parties involved in this as well, and that's how I will measure whether or not we're making progress.

    Eyes wide open and tax the phone masts.

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  • 4. At 11:46am on 30 Nov 2010, Chris London wrote:

    3. At 10:13pm on 29 Nov 2010, eyeswideopen1 wrote:
    In the south Sinn fein has put forward a comprehensive pre buget submission.
    Eyes wide open and tax the phone masts.
    Have you actually looked at the their submission, it just does not hold up to scrutiny. And probably you have captured the main element of their proposal and that is to raise a tax on phone masts. The best thing is they don't believe that these taxes would not be passed onto us. Which would in turn reduce the number of call / texts sent thus reducing the income of the phone operators thus reducing their investment thus reducing the number of masts thus reducing the receipts in tax so do you then raise the tax on the remaining mast....... It presumably then all starts again.

    And in the meantime you have defaulted on the national debt which means that the country has no money or lines of credit. So all civil servants will be ceased to be paid all public projects and programmes will have to be terminated. No social, health, Etc Etc Etc

    Is this is a true scenario, we don't know as it is uncharted territory but all theories point that way. Will it happen overnight, no but it will happen quickly as investors will pull their money out as quick as possible.

    Or you play the game and take the hit while the INF and EU bail you out.

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  • 5. At 2:42pm on 30 Nov 2010, NoFool wrote:

    ewo1 #3:

    Yet another epistle from you that doesn't answer the question that was asked: "How to resist the cuts"?

    You said "At stormont Sinn Fein held back and didn,t roll over at the first signs of cuts from westminister"

    When the agreed budget does come out, what will be different? The amount cut from the budget? All SF did is delay the budget - they have made no difference to the amount. So why didn't they start the work right away, instead of indulging in tokenism and grandstanding?

    "Sinn Fein 2010 = SDLP 1980"

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  • 6. At 9:47pm on 30 Nov 2010, eyeswideopen1 wrote:

    Chris London: The 13,719 who voted for Pearse Doherty voted for Sinn Feins leadership in the peace process and the stance taken by the party on the propossed budget which will be voted on Dec 7th.
    The government will fail in passing its "recovery plan". Pearse Doherty said after the count. "Obviously we are absolutely blown over by the number of people who have come out and voted for Sinn Fein and our vision for this county and this country." So Chris your not telling me the voters didn,t know the position Sinn Fein have toward the propossed cuts? What you gave was a indeed a scenario but was it "true"?

    Nofool: When you state, "All SF did is delay the budget - they have made no difference to the amount. So why didn't they start the work right away, instead of indulging in tokenism and grandstanding? One thinks back to the policing and justice debate when others jumped and Sinn fein showed solid leadership in bringing the unionist and both goverments back to the table to broker a lasting deal. Sinn Fein didn,t roll over then and won,t roll over now.
    You asked "How to resist the cuts"? At a street level go to marches or rallies held in your area. Lobby MP,s and MLA,S. Write to newspapers and dare I say it take part in internet dabate. Don,t let your self-expression be restricted by governmental policy.

    A great man once said "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
    Another penned this "Everyone, Republican or otherwise, has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something.

    Eyes wide open...... Is trom an t-ualach an leisce.

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