Sinn Féin MP for Belfast North, John Finucane, calls for urgent action to address the cost of living crisis.
It’s now five months since the people of the north had their say in an Assembly election. They voted for real change, for hope and for an Executive that would deliver for all. They voted for parties and political leaders to work together; they voted for a First Minister for All.
From day one after that election, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill has been ready to lead our team into the Executive to agree a budget, put money in pockets, and start to fix our health service. Months have now passed and we still do not have a government in place.
The Democratic Unionist Party is unwilling to respect the outcome of that election and is blocking the change that people voted for. The DUP is holding society to ransom and they are doing so at a time when people are struggling to heat their homes, feed their children or put fuel in the car.
As we approach winter the economic picture is bleak. Prices are set to continue to rise with inflation spiralling out of control. Meanwhile hundreds of millions of pounds are stuck in a Stormont bank account and cannot be spent without an Executive. Jeffrey Donaldson’s boycott of the Assembly and Executive is a cruel dereliction of duty at a time when people are crying out for help.
The health service has suffered from a decade of Tory cuts. But earlier in the year, finance minister Conor Murphy set out a plan to invest an extra £1 billion in our health service. This would help cut waiting lists, hire more doctors and nurses, and fund services. At a time when people wait years on hospital waiting lists while others struggle to see their GP. It is ordinary people who are paying the price for the DUP’s boycott.
The DUP is being aided and abetted by the Tories, who have absolutely no regard for the interests or the democratic wishes of the people of the north. The first task now for new British Prime Minister Liz Truss and her incoming government is to immediately work to restore the Executive and Assembly.
Liz Truss should stop facilitating the DUP’s destructive and self-serving boycott of government, and end her sabre-rattling and reckless threats to break international law and get back to the table for talks with the EU to find solutions and give certainty to our businesses.
We need a change of policy and tack from this British government. One that honours international agreements, respects international law and ends its hostility to the Good Friday Agreement.
Having dragged us out of the EU against our wishes the Tories are now intent on tearing up the Protocol which creates jobs and gives our businesses unique access to both EU and British markets. The recent contracts awarded to Wrightbus to produce hydrogen buses for Germany and Dublin are just one example of the Protocol’s benefits.
The majority of people in the north support the Protocol and they voted overwhelmingly for parties that support the Protocol. 53 of the 90 MLAs support the Protocol – a clear majority.
While the Tories undermine our economic interests and help deny people in the north a government, they have done little to cut household bills. They are allowing big energy companies to walk away with eye-watering profits as they rip people off with huge price hikes. Action needs to be taken urgently to shift the burden off workers, families and businesses.
Instead of imposing further taxes on energy companies, the Tories are increasing borrowing to sustain the scandalous profits of energy giants. Ordinary people pay the price down the line.
We need to see taxes on fuel slashed and VAT on energy bills cut to help out businesses to protect jobs and keep their doors open. There are big challenges and tough months ahead for workers and families, but also for political leaders. Sinn Féin is ready to do the business and form an Executive immediately.
There is a huge opportunity to deliver a three-year Budget that would give certainty to our public services to plan and deliver real change. Workers and families need help urgently. They cannot wait any longer. We need an Executive now.