Sam Smyth on a theme that could make things tough the closer Sinn Fein gets to actual power: ie, the degree to which they have managed to avoid it in Northern Ireland:
In the Northern Ireland Executive, Sinn Fein ministers have implemented swingeing spending cuts — while objecting to budget cuts from the opposition benches in the Republic.
Sinn Fein has avoided the responsibilities of economic ministries in the Northern Ireland Executive, opting instead for the less controversial departments of education, agriculture and culture and the arts.
But while it continually calls for more funds for jobs in the Republic, the administration in Belfast underspent their budget in Invest NI — the North’s equivalent of the IDA — by almost €50m.
The point about their leaving the tough decisions to the DUP is one well made. As for the specific policy areas he starts with Education, where the northern Minister has only just begun with a cuts programme which has been long overdue:
In the Republic, Sean Crowe, Sinn Fein’s spokesman on education, warned about the closure of rural schools in February of this year.
Mr Crowe accused the Government of “targeting mainstream and particularly small rural schools to spread unjust cuts . . .”
But in the North, Sinn Fein’s Education Minister John O’Dowd said a “sustainable schools policy could lead to the closure of 70 schools”.
In November of last year, Mr O’Dowd said: “I have therefore decided to close the (two rural) schools in (Co Armagh) as I am confident that the children’s needs can be best met at alternative schools in the area.”
He follows through by highlighting a ‘plural’ view on the Household Charge, the levying of charges for water, and £600m (€747m) of welfare cuts… On this last, there is some credible defence in the sense that the block grant on welfare is set by Whitehall not Stormont.
But it is the mere breaches in principle that could prove more problematic to manage over the long term with a southern electorate which is much more highly turned to the specifics of public affairs that the good burghers of Northern Ireland, who’ve yet substantially to feel the cold wind of global shortage.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty