Standing up for the lions we are proud to serve
Address to Stormont Assembly on budget debate, Tuesday 30 June (starts 47 minutes in)
It’s a fallacy to claim that the only way to reduce the British deficit is to cut services and benefits to the most vulnerable. If, despite historically low interest rates and the lowest debt-GDP ratio in 300 years (according to the FT), unionists still support the need to wipe out the British deficit, they should join us in telling English ministers that taxation on the well-off be used rather than focusing exclusively on heaping pain on the poor.
It’s a fallacy to claim that austerity is working for us. It may be working for London but it’s not working in Tattyreagh or Taughmonagh. In fact, by continuing to focus on cutbacks and austerity, English ministers are denting confidence which is an essential building block for our drive out of recession. They are denying the investment needed to boost the economy and are prolonging a stuttering recovery. The IMF branded this ‘needless austerity’ and all of us should oppose it rather than roll over to have our tummies tickled.
The Minister and I explored the literary canons of poetry and literature last week — TS Elliott and David Copperfield both made appearances — but this is a suitable time to reflect on that great work by Frank McGuinness Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. That play focused on the horror of the Somme where tens of thousands perished on the first day alone, 1 July. The folly and tragedy of The Somme was captured with the metaphor of ‘lions led by donkeys’. At The Somme, the donkeys forcing lions were English generals. The victims, the lions, were our countrymen.
Today it’s not English generals but English ministers who insist they know what is best for us. These Tory donkeys care not a wit about imposing further hardship on the unemployed or on the working people of this land. Their interest isn’t in helping the homeless family get a new home or providing proper educational care for a child suffering from autism. The Tories care not a jot for providing work opportunities for our young graduates or the investment needed to grow our start-ups and young businesses. They care only for feathering their own nests. Unlike us their mission isn’t to build a fair and prosperous economy for all. So let’s not accept the orders of English ministers or Tory donkeys but instead stand up for the lions we are proud to serve.