The following letter was printed in The Irish News on 28th November 2009.
Jim Gibney criticises union leaders in the North for giving Sinn Fein their fair share of the blame for the austerity cuts of the Assembly, arguing that Sinn Fein have opposed cuts in public services and privatisation, as well as water charges (Irish News, 12/11/09).
Jim would do well to remember that it was Catriona Ruane who forced classroom assistants to take strike action in order to defend their pay, conditions and the front-line service they deliver. She now presides over a department which is closing and slashing funding to schools. All new builds on school grounds in Belfast are now done on the basis of PFI/PPP, thanks to Minister Ruane.
Conor Murphy has refused to rule out water charges and, in reality, is preparing with the rest of the Executive to introduce this double tax within in next 3 years. This year, Minister Murphy has been responsible for cutting 75 front-line jobs from Translink.
Actions speak louder than words. While Sinn Fein’s media rhetoric, their election manifestos and their placards may indicate otherwise, their record in power, both in the Executive and at a local level, has been one of cuts, attacks on workers and stealth privatisation of public assets and services. They are every bit as responsible as the other main parties.
The union leaders, instead of just criticising the main parties, should support the launching of a mass party which genuinely represents the common interests of workers, pensioners, young people and the unemployed. This would greatly assist the struggle to defend public services and jobs, both on the streets and in Stormont.