Maiden speech at Stormont Assembly

Maiden speech at Stormont Assembly

January 28, 2015 Blog 0 Comments

This speech includes some sections which were omitted in the debate due to time constraints.


A leas-Cheann Chomhairle,

Tá roinnt pointí a ba mhaith liom a dhéanamh i bhfábhar an rúin seo. Ach go háirithe ba mhaith liom tréaslú le pobal na Gréige agus le Syriza.

I want to open by congratulating Syriza and by quoting Lennon.

The barnstorming performance of Alexis Tsipras’ party in Greece is a victory for all the beleaguered people of Europe being punished in the name of austerity.

I see some of my colleagues on the opposite benches snap to attention at the mention of Lennon but it may disappoint them my quoting not Vladimir but John.

“I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”

True as that, of course, is, the reality is that while money can’t buy us love, it can be allocated in a budget in order to grow our economy, create jobs and give hope for the future.

How we allocate our funds in this budget speaks to our priorities and values as a people.

And indeed it’s clear from this budget that caring for our people, especially those on the margins, while building community, easing the burden on working families, creating jobs and turbocharging our economy are priorities for us.

Sticking to those priorities in the face of slash-and-burn policies from the Tory-led coalition has been some feat.

To use the figures quoted by Minister Hamilton, London has decimated budgets here since 2011, removing £1.5bn from the block grant.

Despite that assault on our people, this budget has managed to put an additional £204m into frontline health services. Our commitment to a health service free to all is unwavering and is protected in this budget.

In relation to the blitz on welfare rights, we stood firm in this budget to protect the vulnerable.

In his budget speech before Christmas the Minister quoted both JFK AND Nelson Mandela. In that spirit, I see his JFK and Mandela and raise him a Pope Francis. Pope Francis asked:

 “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

I want to say that we in Sinn Féin take very seriously the plight of the vulnerable.

That’s why we have agreed to provide a package over six years of £565m to mitigate against the potential loss of benefits to individuals and families.

We have retained a series of anti-poverty measures and set up a Supplementary Payment Fund to provide protection specifically to families with children, people with disabilities, and those who are long-term sick.

These and additional protections are unique to the north and in sharp contrast to the cuts-driven onslaught in Britain which has resulted in 80% of the cost of the crisis being met by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

To the delight of teachers and parents, this budget gives the Education Minister a £63m uplift.

In DEL, the draft budget for further and higher education was revised to give Minister Farry an additional £33m so that he could build our institutions of further and higher education.

Sadly, instead he has set out on a path not of investment but disinvestment with his plan to close St Mary’s University College, thus ripping the economic heart out of West Belfast.

I welcome the innovative efforts by Minister Hamilton to boost our coffers to ensure we can deliver a £500m shared and integrated education capital build plan.

I also give the thumbs-up to the much smaller but in my view equally groundbreaking Social Innovation Fund.

It’s my hope that later this week when I pull on my snow boots and go to meet business and political leaders in Boston, Toronto and New York that we can find a way with the diaspora to boost that fund in the time ahead so that we can fund projects in areas which deserve to see an even greater peace dividend.

This budget also clears the way for local control of corporation tax, which gives us the potential for economic growth. 

In presenting this budget, the Minister has reiterated the Executive’s focus on growing the economy.

None of us are blind therefore to the danger that the cuts imposed by London in the name of austerity can slow our economic recovery.

We will ensure therefore that in our attempts to rebalance the economy, voluntary redundancy schemes across government should not diminish or damage vital public services and that no one, no one, should be made compulsorily redundant.

This budget gives none of us all what we wanted but the alternative of direct rule from London would truly be a horror story.

It’s easy to vote against this budget and present no alternative but I believe the public appreciate the efforts of those who have gone the extra mile to try to underpin our economic progress and our peace process with this financial package.

I was thinking of ending on a high note by asking my young colleague Mr (Raymond) McCartney to sing ‘Money Can’t Buy Me Love’ but instead I want to conclude by reiterating my conviction that this budget will strike a chord with the small business community, which forms the spine of our economy.

I would ask those same small business owners and leaders to take confidence from this bold budget by stepping up to the plate once more.

Now that the economy is in recovery, in part because of the policies of this executive, it’s time to dust down that business plan which has been lying on the office shelf for some years.

Now is the time to
To Innovate
To Invest.
To Build
and most importantly
To Employ.


About the Author

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is the outgoing Sinn Féin MLA for South Belfast and a civic activist in Belfast.