independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

Sinn Fein 'backs austerity in North and rejects it in South'

Mary-Lou McDonald, pictured with Martin McGuinness, commented on Seamus Quaid’s murder.
Mary-Lou McDonald, pictured with Martin McGuinness, commented on Seamus Quaid’s murder.

SINN Fein has been accused of pursuing austerity in Northern Ireland, while criticising cutbacks in this country.

The party's ard fheis takes place in Wexford this weekend.

Gerry Adams yesterday lauded the party's record in the Northern Executive.

The Sinn Fein president said the party had made "difficult decisions" in the North, yet had avoided prescription charges and provided investment for schools.

But Fine Gael said the party was engaging in "manufactured indignation" and Fianna Fail said Mr Adams always conveniently blamed Westminster.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins pointed to the Sinn Fein stance on property tax.

While opposing the introduction of property tax in the Republic, property taxes in Northern Ireland continue to rise in councils that the party controls.

The policy in the North on school closures is also under scrutiny amid plans to reduce and merge schools in the Department of Education controlled by a Sinn Fein minister.

Despite the Northern Assembly having legislative power over welfare rates, the Executive has chosen to keep the rates on a par with Westminster.

Mr Collins said the party blatantly operated two different policies.

"Sinn Fein talk the talk in Dublin, but they don't walk the walk in Belfast where they actually have responsibility for making decisions. When it comes to the crunch, I think people see through Sinn Fein's strategy of saying one thing here to exploit people's anger, but doing a very different thing just a few miles north," he said.

Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said there was a difference between the party's approach on either side of the Border.

"The Government are to blame for austerity in Dublin, but in Northern Ireland, Westminster is to blame.

"The massive anomaly is being anti-austerity down south and being part of the austerity programme up north," he said.

Meanwhile, the family of a garda murdered by the IRA have had his remembrance plaque removed from the venue of the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.

Detective Garda Seamus Quaid's family had endowed a seat at Wexford Opera House, which hosts the weekend conference.

But they have taken down the name plaque and also protested against a decision by Wexford Borough Council to hold a welcome reception for party delegates.

Seamus Quaid, pictured below, a 43-year-old married father of four, was murdered on October 13, 1980, in a quarry near Duncormick, Co Wexford, by Belfast-born IRA man Peter Rogers. The killer was sentenced to death but this was commuted to 40 years' imprisonment and he was released under the Good Friday Agreement in December 1998.

APOLOGISED

Mr Adams said he "unequivocally and totally" apologised to the Quaid family. Repeating the apology, deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald said she wished no member of the security forces north or south, nor anybody else, was ever killed or injured.

"I had no hand in writing that history. But it is over now and we are never going back to that place," she told reporters.

Gda Quaid's son Eamonn said they had asked the Opera House management to temporarily remove the plaque because they disliked the idea of a Sinn Fein delegate sitting on it.

The family bought the plaque in the refurbished theatre in 2008 because Seamus Quaid had helped with Wexford Opera Festival security in the 1970s.

Irish Independent

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