#FreshStart critics are failing to see the wood for the trees…

Reader Hugh Brown writes to Slugger to argue that opponents of the Fresh Start document fail to see the wood for the trees. He has a background in community development, and holds a MA in Media, which he hastens to add, he has never put to use (till now perhaps).

On Monday 23 November, the Tory Government would have introduced heavy austerity measures that would have crippled society, if it wasn’t for the ‘Fresh Start’ document.

Tory austerity cuts have already taken hundreds of millions of pounds out of public services, and they are intent in attacking the safeguards of the welfare state, but a bulwark document has been agreed here to stop the Tory cuts.

The Fresh Start document has to be studied as to why Sinn Fein and the DUP took the stance that they have. The idea that they have allowed Westminster to govern on cuts is wrong.

Any changes that are proposed have to be agreed by the assembly, and this mechanism only lasts until 31/12/2016. This move has also secured a further £80million to be injected into future projects.

Opponents of the Fresh Start document fail to see the wood for the trees. It’s very easy to grandstand and shout what they would like to see in a perfect agreement, but agreements are about ensuring that we collectively move forward, and are rarely perfect.

These opponents are yet to offer an alternative to the agreed document. The SDLP (via Mark H Durkan on Twitter Nov. 18)  admitted that they proposed 7 papers in the negotiations, but they were rejected:

Will they make them public? Other questions remain. For instance, what cuts have parties in Westminster stopped by taking on the Tories from within?

Society has been given an extra £615m. £525m-£650m to grow our economy. £585m to support those effected by benefits/tax credits loss. A clear decision to build the A5, and the Evason Panel that will oversee how the package of funding will be used to ensure progress.

It also has to be noted that this additional money will be used over a four-year period with a review at the end of the third year.

The North West also benefits by the allocation of £2.5million for the North-West Gateway Initiative – something opponents of the Fresh Start document in the North West fail to mention.

Ultimately, the failure to agree a way forward would destabilise the political institutions, and in turn would allow Tory cuts to be railroaded through, and this railroading would last for 5 years via. direct rule.

This agreement inserts leverage for those in power in the executive to take control and stand up for society.

As it was not possible for parties to reach an agreement on dealing with the legacy of the past, due to the unwillingness of the British Government to disclose their role in the conflict, and hide behind the notion of national security.

There was also the failure of the Irish Government to press the British Government for disclosure on the past for Irish citizens. This failure will remain the elephant in the room, and it’s important that the political institutions tackle this head on at every opportunity – under a Tory direct rule, tackling this head on wouldn’t be possible.

The Fresh Start document isn’t perfect, but it’s better than direct rule and Tory cuts. Its also important to see this document as a base to move forward, this isn’t the end of the negotiations on the economic situation within Ireland.

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