These questions were posted on Twitter and while I can’t speak for Eamonn or People Before Profit, I felt they needed answered. PBP can answer for themselves but it’s not only Sinn Fein who are escaping scrutiny on RHI, they all knew to some extent yet all said nothing.
1.Why you think a public enquiry is better than the investigation Sinn Fein proposed into RHI?
Answer: There were subtle differences in Sinn Feins proposal but the methodology left no alternative but to oppose.
Sinn Fein when interviewed on Sunday Politics (Connor Murphy, morning before motion of no confidence) wouldn’t answer if they would support the motion of no confidence. Late Sunday night Sinn Fein released a detailed proposed amendment to the motion of no confidence online. One key difference in the amendment was that the First Minister step aside until an interim report had been published and that this should take no longer than two weeks. They were offering Arlene an out and seriously underestimating the publics anger. It was also unacceptable to publish an amendment online without even informing the people who’s motion they were proposing to amend.This displays a similar arrogance and contempt as that shown later by the First Minister.
Sinn Fein left the other parties no opportunity to scrutinise the amendment and it could have been accepted if time for discussion had been allowed. Ultimately Sinn Fein came round to the oppositions position of forcing an election. A two week step aside looks pretty much like a let off.
2. How a vote for you will stop corruption, crime or privatisation?
Answer: People Before Profit are not dependent on Sectarian/Corrupt/Right Wing politics which is rife in both Stormont and Councils. I suspect they will attempt to deal with crime in a non sectarian way ie. Not bribing former/existing paramilitary groups to stop extortion, drug dealing and all forms of criminality.The DUP may have taken the hit on Charter NI and others but Sinn Fein are there Executive partners and knew all about it.
In relation to Privatisation, Sinn Fein have made no attempt to protect the Public Sector. Health is privatised through private sector care homes, respite care, Domicilery care and care in the community.
Agencies hold the health service to ransom. There is no shortage of nurses but there is a shortage of nurses given proper employment contracts by the various health trusts. This forces them to work for agencies who profit from what should be a public service.Maybe another investigation is required. How many past and present Trust officials sit on the boards of the multitude of outsourced healthcare providers.How many sit on the Boards of the many Not for Profit and Charitable healthcare providers, many of which are just private sector companies in disguise. Health is devolved a long time but no change.
Housing Associations, many of which are again private sector in disguise have replaced the Housing Executive and are not bound by the same regulations. Education, Infrastructure and all public services are largely outsourced to the private sector and while I’m no economist I understand that performance in the private sector is measured by profit not delivery. I was young at the time but believe Eamonn McCann may have had a hand in the creation of the Housing Executive. I’m not a spokesperson but I do know PBP are opposed to continued privatisation of public services.
3. How has Eamonn actually held anybody to account. Is there any specific cases I could look at?
Well you could look at many things but to name a few. Start with the Civil Rights Movement, the Bloody Sunday Enquiry, Blanket Protests, Hunger Strikes. You could also look to the Housing Rights Campaigners, Trade Unions, Abortion Rights. You might also look at the private members bill Eamonn and Gerry Carroll we’re bringing to the Assembly, to change Thatchers union laws. Maybe ask Sinn Fein and other socialists in Stormont why they’ve made no attempt to change this.
You could also look at NAMA, Red Sky,RHI and when Edwin Poots broke the Ministerial Code of Conduct by holding up the Council mergers by two years, while he was a Councillor and the Minister overseeing Council Reform. No sorry PBP were not there for any of that, thank God Sinn Fein were there to hold them to account.
4. Can you tell me how you would deal with Austerity, assuming you had the same electoral strength as Sinn Fein?
Answer:On this I can’t speak for Eamonn or People Before Profit but I’m guessing with the same numbers and timeframe the deprivatisation/Robbery of Public Services would have saved a brave few quid. It would also mean more people working with decent employment rights, which would in turn create more disposable income. That would have a positive knock on effect on the local economy.
They might reform the system in a way that creates more jobs in frontline services while removing many of the needless overpaid Chief Executives of the multitude of Not For Profits/Charities who are as I said private companies in disguise. They may rightfully challenge the wage structures of the highest levels of the Public Sector. Is it value for money (Our Money) to pay 11 Chief Executives of Councils a starting salary of £150K when we don’t have the population of a small city. Is it value for money to pay a starting salary of £200K to a Chief Constable of an average sized Police Service. When you bring in the Health Trusts, Education and many other Boards( not forgetting the non executive boards) the figures are obscene.
Why are you even asking about Austerity when you firstly claimed it wasn’t required, then claimed you stopped Tory Austerity Cuts.
Anyway back to your question. Just prior to the Stormont House Agreement the Social Security Agency created the Benefits Uptake Team. Seriously they really did. Welfare/Benefits were costing so much that over £80million a week was sent back to the British Treasury. That horse was allowed to bolt though, so spilt milk and all that.
Another possible means of removing Austerity measures might be to invest in a building scheme. Infrastructure, particularly Roads, Public Transport, Sewage System and Schools are all needed if we’re to compete for international investment and tourism. Re-establish the Water Service and stop outsourcing large scale Capitol programmes. Another outlandish idea would be to employ Road Service to build new roads.
They could make better use of Civil Servants instead of employing consultants ridiculous money to tell Civil Servants what they already know, after all some of them have been working there for 20 -30yrs. The Assembly Researchers are priceless, I’ve worked with them and they are more than capable.
Another economically prudent idea might be to stop funding pet projects to get yourself re elected. This is very common in both Stormont and Councils. A shared future should mean what it says but as things stand we have a shared out future where ideals become a poker chip.
5. Are you happy with the current trajectory of Brexit negotiations and their impact on the north, considering you called on people to vote leave?
Answer: Again I can’t speak for Eamonn but I suspect he’s about as happy as the other parties including Sinn Fein i.e. not at all happy. It’s not like any of them are being given a say by a bullish British government who see arrogance as a quality. I don’t see Eamonn being content that we are being dictated too by increasingly right wing extremists wether they’re in London or Brussels. Sinn Fein would be more comfortable there, but their position on Europe is hardly consistent.
As for voting out I would refer back to the extreme right of either Brussels or London imposing elitist policies on working class people. That and the abuse of small nations while bailing out banks is not something I’d sign up too.
6. Why are you trying to tie Sinn Fein into RHI scandal with no supporting evidence?
Answer: Sinn Fein were on the Executive with the DUP. They were partners in government and cannot abdicate responsibility when it suits. That’s the nice way of saying they were up to their eyes in this.
Sinn Fein knew the extent of the RHI overspend at the very latest, as of January last year. How do we know this? They told us themselves just before Christmas when they were so quick to point out that the sdlp had voted to keep the scheme open in January 2016.In doing that, they exposed the fact that they had voted against continuing the scheme in Jan 2016and the only possible reason to vote against was that they were fully aware of the overspend. In addition both Jonathan Bell and Arlene Foster said they had discussed the matter with the Deputy First Minister in Bells case Jan 16 and according to Arlene it was as early as September 2015.
It is reasonable to ask if they would ever have said a word about it if the media hadn’t broke the story. Sinn Fein have shown time and again they were willing to swallow anything to stay in government. They admitted as much when they decided to step down.
When you look at the facts of the RHI scheme, it is reasonable to accuse Sinn Fein of being complicit in the cover up.