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Cost of Living | Costas Maireachtála:

There has been a 326% increase in gas prices from December 2020 to December 2021, a 10% increase in house prices, a 10% hike in electricity prices and stagnating wages. This is increasing inequality and poverty. That is the record of the Stormont Establishment parties in government. Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance, the DUP and the UUP have an overwhelming majority in the Assembly to improve the lot of the people in the North – but continuously fail to do so.

There are now cutbacks to the Universal Credit potentially plunging 11,000 children into poverty, whilst the cost of a school uniform is a barrier to education for many. Why are these bread-and-butter issues, that matter and the needs of our communities, playing second fiddle to the Stormont culture wars?

The Executive doesn’t seem to understand the pressure that workers and families are under. SF/DUP/SDLP/UUP/Alliance do not seem to understand that businesses and farmers are now being pushed to breaking point because of Stormont’s half measures. People are using their wages to pay off their overdrafts. They are going into debt on the back of eye-watering bills. The purchasing power of the average person has fallen by thousands. Aontú is the party of devolution. We seek to return the powers to control taxation on fuel from London to the democratic control of the people of the North. This will reduce the cost of energy for families and businesses during this crisis.

Aontú seeks:

A devolution of fuel taxes from England to Ireland so we can lower them, to help struggling families.
Equalisation of Corporation Taxes with the south of Ireland to drive Foreign Direct Investment
The devolution of more tax powers in order to grow the economy, to improve the prosperity of families and to significantly reduce the cost of fuel in this Cost-of-Living crisis.
Implementation of price caps on Electricity & Gas
Implementation a VAT/Excise Duties Waiver on Fuel
A reversal of the Cuts to the Universal Credit
An emergency payment of up to £500 to middle-to-low-income families to deal with the cost-of-living crisis hammering our communities.

Devolution of Fiscal Powers

The fiscal philosophy of Stormont has been one of dependence and reliance. The debate on our finances has been continuously framed by the limitations of the Block Grant. Even the two old Nationalist parties are largely silent on the need to devolve tax powers from London. Aontú is different. We are a party of economic ambition. We want to end the dependency of the North of Ireland. We want to grow our economy to benefit our society.   

The proportion of our budget that comes from the Block Grant is higher than in the other devolved administrations on these islands. This is because both Scotland and Wales have more significant tax powers.

The proportion of devolved taxation in the North of Ireland is 5%. This is lower than in Wales where it is at 9% and it is much lower than in Scotland at 22%. As a result, the amount of public expenditure which is funded by locally set taxes is far higher in Scotland and Wales than in the North of Ireland.

Elected representatives in those jurisdictions have far more control over their total budgets than in this state. Shockingly Corporation Tax has been devolved but it has not yet been commenced. This reflects the level of dysfunction and dependence of our government.

The British Chancellor determines the spending envelope for the North of Ireland. This is done using the Barnett Formula. The Barnett Formula has no legal basis and is purely a Treasury Convention. It could be changed at any time. Critically it is not based on need. In practical terms the people of the North have no influence on that decision at all.

It is worth noting that the spending envelope approved by the Sinn Féin Minister for Finance for 2022 is £13,571.4 billion. This is a fraction of what it needs to be. It means that there will be shortages in housing, health education, transport and social services for decades to come. No Nationalist Minister for Finance should stand over this.    

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The Irish political system is radically broken

In Ireland the vast majority of elected representatives put a finger in the air to check which way the political wind is blowing. They have one eye on their leaders – seeking brownie points – and another eye keeping their seat safe. If elected reps shut up and do as they’re told, they are promoted; if they stand up for what they believe in, they are demoted. No wonder we have the political class we have. No wonder one point one billion euro is being buried in a hole under the National Children’s Hospital and that Stormont is in stalemate.

Throughout Ireland, many people are now afraid to say what they feel, many are afraid to respectfully engage on a range of different topics. Many feel there is a new censorship and a new political correctness in Ireland, that opposition to the establishment is being deleted.

Respectful opposition is not the enemy. Respectful opposition is a critical element of a functional democracy. Aontú will have the backbone to stand up, without fear, for you.