The “irony” of former finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir speaking out about a threat to the salaries of Sure Start workers, after failing to pass a budget, won’t be lost on the public.
That is the verdict of DUP MP Gregory Campbell, who pinned the blame for any job losses as a result of budgetary uncertainty arising out of the ongoing political deadlock at Stormont squarely at Mr O’Muilleoir’s door.
South Belfast Sure Start, an organisation that helps children in deprived areas, has issued protective redundancy notices to its 50 employees. The organisation said it has been forced to take the measure after receiving no assurances over funding from the Education Authority.
The Chair of South Belfast Sure Start, Eleanor Jordan, said on Tuesday: “Of course the staff team of mainly family support and early years workers are worried. Taking politics out of it the reality is that they have only three weeks of secure employment left. Most of them have families and homes to support and are already struggling because the wages are generally low and they haven’t had a pay rise in three years.”
The Department of Education, meanwhile, has said “ options to reduce spending across all programme areas are being explored” as a “consequence of the indicative budget for the Department of Education announced by the Secretary of State on April 24.”
Sinn Fein MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who was Finance Minister before his party triggered the collapse of the Assembly but did not pass a budget that might have safeguarded funding for organisations such as Sure Start, tweeted his support for the Sure Start on Tuesday shortly after it emerged jobs were at risk.
In his tweet, Mr Ó Muilleoir wrote: “SureStart does tremendous life-changing work with children and parents. Staff salaries should immediately be guaranteed to end March 2018.”
DUP MP Gregory Campbell, responding, said; “The substance of what Máirtín Ó Muilleoir says about Sure Start, not just in Belfast but all over, is something that I and most people would agree with.
He added: “However, once more, irony seems to be completely lost on Sinn Fein, particularly when Máirtín Ó Muilleoir as finance minister, even when the Assembly was up and running, failed to produce a budget. It is a budget which would determine which departments and which organisations would get their spending allocations. “
Mr Campbell continued: “While the irony might be lost on him, it won’t be lost on the wider community that the man who was principally responsible for failing to bring forward a budget is now complaining about the outcome of that failure to bring forward a budget.
“He and all the others need to get round the table and resolve the issues we have been telling Sinn Fein about for the past four-and-a-half months.”
Responding, Mairtín Ó Muilleoir said: “The pressure to public services is a result of seven years of Tory austerity and cuts to the block grant.
“The DUP’s faux concern about public sector jobs need to be set bedside the fact that their first act was to support the Tory government in a vote for an effective cut to the wages of emergency and public service workers.
“Furthermore, the DUP have committed to backing further Tory cuts through support in Westminster for austerity budgets and they support a Tory Brexit which will be disastrous for our economy.”