‘The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is the latest in a long litany of scandals in which the Executive has been involved. The DUP may be the biggest offenders, but they are not alone.
The revelations that Michelle O’Neill’s department organised 58 workshops explaining RHI’s benefits, later stating that promoting the scheme was “the right thing to do at the time,” raises significant questions about the role of Sinn Féin in the debacle.
The more recent allegations that Conor Murphy strongly lobbied Jonathan Bell to keep the RHI scheme open suggests that the rot runs much deeper.
Corruption, therefore, could be considered endemic to the establishment in Stormont. We can all rhyme the list off by this stage: Red Sky, Nama, etc. Sinn Fein’s massive expenses rip-off surrounding the Research Services Ireland scam, whereby up to a million pounds of tax-payers’ money was funnelled into party coffers, should be included too.
Disgracefully, most of these scandals have simply been swept under the carpet. As soon as a scandal erupts, some sectarian dispute arises that takes its place in the headlines. It is a well-worn strategy.
Politics here is at an impasse. Health and education are in crisis, real wages and living standards have gone down year on year since 2008, but DUP/SF haven’t felt the pinch. They’ve been experts at using sectarian deflection to cover up scandals, cuts and incompetence. Their solution to the economic woes of the North—a toxic mix of Thatcherite economics and tax cuts for corporations—will only make the situation worse. The charade has gone on too long, and it is time for something different.
There is an increasing number of people in the North who want to get over not just the DUP/SF snarling which characterised the final days of the last Assembly but to move beyond the whole Orange/Green thing. The people are more progressive than the scenes on the Hill give them credit for. It is not inevitable that the pull of old traditions will dictate the outcome of the March 2nd poll.
People Before Profit is the anti-establishment alternative in this election. We believe in doing politics differently; building a consensus for change through grassroots campaigning and people power. We want to empower workers, communities, young people and others to get organised and to transform society.
The presence of People Before Profit MLAs in Stormont makes a huge difference to the ability of people on the ground to organise in this way, and to make the changes we need in society. Our MLAs—who only take an average worker’s wage—can amplify the voices of discontent and bring hope to those fighting for a better future.
Austerity doesn’t stop at the border. In a phrase, we need an island-wide heave against poverty, privatisation, cuts in services, attacks on benefit recipients and much else. North and South the headlines on health tell of ridiculously long waiting lists, patients on trollies, overworked, underpaid staff, wholly inadequate ambulance services. We need a coordinated, all-Ireland campaign against austerity, based on struggle from below.
That’s the context, too, in which the fight for human rights, against the abuse of power, for justice for the families of all of the victims of the conflict, can be carried forward with the least possibility of arriving at sectarian deadlock. Our support for a women’s right to choose is consistent across both sides of the border. The protection of the environment knows no boundaries either. Day in and day out, waste is being transported by the truckload across the border and dumped.
In and outside the Assembly and the Dáil, this is the vision People Before Profit strives to make real. We commend it to voters in all communities.