Blair and Brown's Con trick

By Ciaran Crossey, Socialist Voice June 2002

SWORDS INTO ploughshares, that's what the media called the latest economic announcement to come out of Stormont. They were using a visit here by Blair and Gordon Brown to announce a scheme of 200 million in loans from the central Exchequer. The government is also passing over to the Assembly the right to dispose of three army barracks with the Maze and Crumlin Road prisons. But there are strings.

The purpose of this visit was to launch a system of repairs to the roads, water systems, etc. of Northern Ireland, the economic infrastructure which has been allowed to crumble over decades. Blair stated that the Executive here would be able to use this 200 in 'cheap loans', and sell off the barracks and prisons for either domestic or commercial use. The money raised could be allocated for the repairs of the local infrastructure.

The Executive will have discretion over how much to borrow and invest, based on their willingness to raise requisite funds for repayments by such means as increasing water charges or rates on property. The Executive can borrow the 200m but the working class here will be asked to repay it. The money is not a gift to the people of Northern Ireland but a sneaky way to force up rates, introduce water charges, roll tolls, etc.

This is a way for the government to pretend that it is doing something to catch up for decades of under investment. They failed to fix things, to build roads, to provide hospitals, now they're telling us that WE will have to pay. The politicians in Stormont have increased their wages, now they want to increase our rates, etc. There was no opposition to these proposals from any of the parties in Stormont.

Peter Robinson did have an alternative proposal, instead of increasing the rates we should make further use of PFI. It'll cost more in the long run, but at least we can give the voters the impression that we care.

As magicians say, it's the impression that counts not the reality. The Irish Times accurately said: "Political sources across the spectrum at Stormont hope that the new powers to enable the raising of investment funds will enhance the political standing of the Executive, lend it new gravitas and enhance greater co-operation between Ministers."

In other words it gives the money-grabbing politicians in Stormont the opportunity to raise taxes. We can tell them one thing - these plans may be agreed among the pro-business parties in Stormont, but the working people here will oppose these proposed increases in rates, the introduction of water charges, road tolls, etc.

Blair's package proves one thing - it shows that the money is there. And as it is our money already paid for through our taxes why should we have to pay for it again?

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