Unite the Union protest against ‘Tory/Sinn Fein/DUP austerity pact’

November 30, 2015

Unite the Union have staged protests outside DUP and Sinn Fein offices across Northern Ireland to protest against what it has described as the “Tory/Sinn Fein/DUP austerity pact” of the Fresh Start Stormont House Agreement which was forged last week.

White picket protests took place in locations throughout Belfast, Derry, Strabane and Ballymoney and, in Newry, protesters formed a picket outside the local Sinn Fein office on Patrick Street.

Speaking to The Examiner ahead of Saturday’s picket, Newry Unite Community branch spokesperson Martin McKeown, described the recent Stormont House Agreement as “a sop to big business” and likened it to “Robin Hood in reverse.”

“Instead of taxing the rich to provide for the poor, our politicians have agreed to the biggest attack on Social Welfare in history and at the same time gave big business a 12.5% tax windfall,” said Martin.

“It is estimated that £300- £400 million will be expunged from our block grant over the first three years. This is money that will be taken from our NHS, Education, Social Welfare and infrastructure; this money will be handed to fat cat businessmen to splurge, while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.”

“The Stormont House Agreement is a very dark day for all the people of the North; thousands of jobs are going within our public sector. These are jobs that will not be coming back. Thousands of people will find themselves on the dole, thousands of people will have to try and survive on benefits that are being cut left, right and centre.”

Accusing political leaders of dressing the agreement up as a great deal, packaging it as a “Fresh Start,” the Unite spokesperson added,

“No amount of spin or massaging of figures can disguise the fact that this is austerity, which again is a fancy word for cuts! This is an attack on the working class; this is an attack on the disabled, poorest and most needy within our community.”

Mr McKeown urged people to stand together in opposing The Stormont House Agreement which, he said, “will cause misery, poverty and death.”

Local Independent councillors and Unite Community activists Kevin McAteer and Davy Hyland both supported Saturday’s protests. Mr McAteer said the issue was not one of political or religious beliefs but was about the “struggle to survive” as “these cuts are going to hit every working class person the same.”

Echoing his party colleague’s sentiments Davy Hyland said,

“This is not a time for apathy or a time to stick your head in the sand and wish it all away, this is real.

“A tsunami of welfare cuts is on the horizon, which is bringing a deluge of hardship, misery and pain.

“We need to stand together and let our elected representatives know we will not take this lying down.”