Cameron drops clanger over cost of union
Cameron drops clanger over cost of union

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the DUP have criticised comments by British Conservative leader David Cameron which compared the north of Ireland to a former Soviet nation.

In a BBC interview at the weekend, Mr Cameron said “in some UK regions the state accounts for a bigger share of the economy than it did in the communist countries of the old eastern bloc -- it is clearly unsustainable”.

Asked to be specific, Mr Cameron replied: “I think the first one I would pick out is Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland it is quite clear, almost every party, I think, accepts that the size of the state has got too big -- we need a bigger private sector.”

He called for a faster-growing private sector and a “rebalancing of the economy”.

His remarks were redolent of the infamous description by former British Labour PM Harold Wilson in 1974 of unionists as “spongers”, who expected British taxpayers to pay for their lifestyle.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP said the Conservatives had let slip their plans for the North’s public services.

The Conservatives, particularly under former PM, Margaret Thatcher, have also traditionally been identified with the wealthy southeast of England, while looking down on ‘the regions’.

The revelation could be devastating for Reg Empey’s Ulster Unionist Party, which recently formed a close political alliance with the Tories.


In a rearguard action, former Tory leader William Hague claimed today that a northern Irish MP could be a future British prime minister under an Ulster Unionist-backed Conservative government.

Mr Hague was outlining the joint Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force (UCUNF) manifesto in Newtownabbey in the heart of the South Antrim seat that UUP leader Reg Empey is desperate to take from the DUP in the May 6 poll.

“Any of our candidates elected here will take their place as part of David Cameron’s team with exactly the same rights and responsibilities as Conservatives from Scotland, Wales, England . . . and Yorkshire,” Mr Hague said.

“And any of them will have exactly the same opportunity to serve as a minister as MPs from anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

“Imagine the message that would be sent around the world if, in time, the foreign secretary or the home secretary, the environment secretary or even the prime minister in a UK government sat for a constituency in Northern Ireland.”


Ahead of the UCUNF launch, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said both the unionist parties were ‘Tory Parties’. Both favoured cutbacks in public services, he said, and only “a strong Sinn Fein team” could oppose these.

“Working people have nothing to gain from voting for unionist parties,” he said.

“While Peter Robinson and Reg Empey may take up populist positions on social or economic issues they are opposed to equality measures which would help working families in these difficult economic times.

“The British Tories have given clear notice that they are going to cut health services.

“Peter Robinson is attacking Reg Empey because his party is in a Conservative coalition.

“Mr Robinson makes a big issue about the Tories intention to introduce cuts. Yet the DUP is supporting a so-called unity candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone who has pledged his support for the Conservatives and who is committed, if elected, to taking the Tory Whip.

“So, despite the rhetoric Peter Robinson has exactly the same position as Reg Empey. The DUP desire to disempower the people of Fermanagh South Tyrone is clearly greater than any notional differences with the British Tories.”

Mr Adams said working class unionist neighbourhoods had long been abandoned by the main unionist parties.

“Poverty is rampant in many of these areas. If the unionist parties are not challenged they will reduce public services, particularly the health services, and destroy the social fabric and necessary protections for citizens.

“All of this points up the real need to build a strong Sinn Fein team which will develop realistic policies based on equality for the benefit of all sections of our society.”


Elsewhere, Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister issued his party’s manifesto which called for the next British government to pass a law to prevent Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness taking the post of first minister at Stormont.

The ultra-hardline unionist leader used his party’s manifesto to make clear he could not support any British party leader for prime minister unless the 2006 St Andrews Agreement measure was reversed.

Mr Allister said this change was “a top line issue”.

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