#FreshStart critics are failing to see the wood for the trees…

Reader Hugh Brown writes to Slugger to argue that opponents of the Fresh Start document fail to see the wood for the trees. He has a background in community development, and holds a MA in Media, which he hastens to add, he has never put to use (till now perhaps).

On Monday 23 November, the Tory Government would have introduced heavy austerity measures that would have crippled society, if it wasn’t for the ‘Fresh Start’ document.

Tory austerity cuts have already taken hundreds of millions of pounds out of public services, and they are intent in attacking the safeguards of the welfare state, but a bulwark document has been agreed here to stop the Tory cuts.

The Fresh Start document has to be studied as to why Sinn Fein and the DUP took the stance that they have. The idea that they have allowed Westminster to govern on cuts is wrong.

Any changes that are proposed have to be agreed by the assembly, and this mechanism only lasts until 31/12/2016. This move has also secured a further £80million to be injected into future projects.

Opponents of the Fresh Start document fail to see the wood for the trees. It’s very easy to grandstand and shout what they would like to see in a perfect agreement, but agreements are about ensuring that we collectively move forward, and are rarely perfect.

These opponents are yet to offer an alternative to the agreed document. The SDLP (via Mark H Durkan on Twitter Nov. 18)  admitted that they proposed 7 papers in the negotiations, but they were rejected:

Will they make them public? Other questions remain. For instance, what cuts have parties in Westminster stopped by taking on the Tories from within?

Society has been given an extra £615m. £525m-£650m to grow our economy. £585m to support those effected by benefits/tax credits loss. A clear decision to build the A5, and the Evason Panel that will oversee how the package of funding will be used to ensure progress.

It also has to be noted that this additional money will be used over a four-year period with a review at the end of the third year.

The North West also benefits by the allocation of £2.5million for the North-West Gateway Initiative – something opponents of the Fresh Start document in the North West fail to mention.

Ultimately, the failure to agree a way forward would destabilise the political institutions, and in turn would allow Tory cuts to be railroaded through, and this railroading would last for 5 years via. direct rule.

This agreement inserts leverage for those in power in the executive to take control and stand up for society.

As it was not possible for parties to reach an agreement on dealing with the legacy of the past, due to the unwillingness of the British Government to disclose their role in the conflict, and hide behind the notion of national security.

There was also the failure of the Irish Government to press the British Government for disclosure on the past for Irish citizens. This failure will remain the elephant in the room, and it’s important that the political institutions tackle this head on at every opportunity – under a Tory direct rule, tackling this head on wouldn’t be possible.

The Fresh Start document isn’t perfect, but it’s better than direct rule and Tory cuts. Its also important to see this document as a base to move forward, this isn’t the end of the negotiations on the economic situation within Ireland.

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  • Kevin Breslin

    Any changes that are proposed have to be agreed by the assembly, and this mechanism only lasts until 31/12/2016. This move has also secured a further £80 million to be injected into future projects.

    Firstly this is pure apologetic stance towards the LCM, saying it’s accountable, but don’t worry it’ll end in 2017 even if it’s not.

    The public won’t be aware of anything passed by the LCM only its consequences as there’s no way the DUP or SF are going to expose the legislation to the public. This disregard to the elected representatives that Alex Atwood and Jim Allister mentioned is firmly vindicated. Good Friday Agreement Page One … It’s Your Decision is being mocked. If we have to cut, let us be the ones who make the hard choices and take the hard consequences, not have the process spun by the political elites. Greece voted not hand over autonomy and made harder choices on its own terms for the sake of its own independence.

    The public has the right to know that the £80 million means being bribed into an Enabling Act. It should be asking what does the British Government want to enable that badly?

  • Brid Rodgers

    ” it’s better than direct rule or TORY CUTS”. This about an agreement to hand back to the british Tory government control over welfare – the absolute right to make even more swingeing cuts, as already signalled, you couldn’t make it up!

  • Granni Trixie

    You would speak with greater authority if SDLP had come up with alternative suggestions for Welfare reform with mitigating the impact on the most vulnerable in mind. Is this not what drawing in people with the expertise of Eileen Evason is all about?

    Anybody can shout from the sides.

  • Brid Rodgers

    The amendments proposed to the original Stormont House agreement were voted down by DUP/Sinn Fein in the Assembly. The so called Fresh Start was negotiated exclusively by DUP/SF. Whatever happened to the principle of inclusivity that gave us the Good Friday Agreement! Did anyone expect SDLP to produce alternatives on the hoof to a 60 page document, 10 weeks in the making, a document presented to them 45 minutes before publication two days ago?
    I

  • Old Mortality

    Society has been given an extra £615m. £525m-£650m to grow our economy. £585m to support those effected (sic) by benefits/tax credits loss.

    Only someone immersed in dependency culture could make such a crass assertion: as if economic growth can be conjured up simply by enabling people who produce nothing to consume more. It’s the witless argument regularly put forward by NIPSA.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Should have taken a finance degree Hugh, then you wouldn’t be talking this level of balls.

  • chrisjones2

    Inclusivity never existed. You didn’t have guns go you never really counted in the whole process. Its that stark and that simple. It was all just part of a process to get SF on board then when they were corralled the NIO was happy that you be destroyed – you were no longer needed

  • Gaygael

    No mention of corporation tax cuts.

    Are Sinn Fein and DUP rolling out their apologists to try and give them cover?

  • Zig70

    No guns wasn’t the issue. No vision and no balls

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I’ve seen doublespeak from SF before but this takes the cake.

    Tory austerity cuts have already taken hundreds of millions of pounds out of public services, and they are intent in attacking the safeguards of the welfare state, but a bulwark document has been agreed here to stop the Tory cuts.

    The document does not stop the Tory cuts. It authorises the Westminster parliament to implement them over the heads of our Assembly.

    The Fresh Start document has to be studied as to why Sinn Fein and the DUP took the stance that they have. The idea that they have allowed Westminster to govern on cuts is wrong.

    Westminster have been handed a 13-month window during which they will have complete power over our welfare system.

    Society has been given an extra £615m. £525m-£650m to grow our economy. £585m to support those effected by benefits/tax credits loss.

    This assertion is difficult to support. We have lost many millions in terms of the fines imposed by the Treasury as a consequence of SF’s delays over the past number of years. Secondly, we don’t know what additional welfare reforms Westminster will choose to bring forward during the next year. Further cuts may well offset the money secured in this agreement.

    SF are so lucky to have activists who will blindly swallow the blatant dissembling here without daring the question the party hierarchy who spent the last three years trying to tell them that welfare reform could be stopped.

  • Dominic Hendron

    “No vision and no balls” as opposed to whom or what the tout infected provos

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Top notch comeback there Dominic.

  • barnshee

    Why should NI spend more than it raises in tax?,-especially when many of the problems are/were self inflicted.