Opinion

Our true interests lie in an Ireland united and at peace with itself –Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins is an Irish News columnist and former editor of the newspaper.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver the autumn statement, but don't expect anything to cheer in Northern Ireland
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver the autumn statement, but don't expect anything to cheer in Northern Ireland Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver the autumn statement, but don't expect anything to cheer in Northern Ireland

ARE you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for tomorrow’s autumn statement from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt? No, neither am I. It’s just another reminder of how impotent we are in shaping our future.

An out-of-touch English politician, acting on behalf of a crippled and corrupted government with no mandate, will be making decisions on taxation and spending that will have a profound effect on our lives. And we have no say.

The good news for readers with million-pound fortunes is that Hunt is tipped to make cuts to inheritance tax, making the rich even richer.

In the pre-briefings, Hunt has been coy about other tax cuts, but there have been warning shots across the bows of those on benefits, and commentators do not expect to see much, if any, movement on income tax – which is where most government money comes from.

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Diddley squat for Northern Ireland

Meanwhile, the government is wasting tens of billions – much lost to fraudsters (many with an unhealthy connection to the Conservative Party).

Tomorrow, expect tax cuts for the rich, opprobrium for those who have been let down by society – people thrown out of work, the sick and people with disabilities – and diddly-squat for Northern Ireland.

There was a time when the north was high up the governmental agenda. But no more. The rot set in with Cameron, and successive prime ministers have displayed diminishing interest in the place.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt Prime Minister Rishi Sunak alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

I suppose you cannot blame May, who was destroyed in part by the DUP. Then arch-narcissist Johnson lied to them, ravished them and unceremoniously dumped them. For him Northern Ireland was merely a means to his own ends. The DUP didn't see it.

Truss was too busy destroying the economy to care, and I doubt Sunak knows where Northern Ireland is – though we have more than enough helipads to service his needs.

If he did care, it would have featured in his reshuffle last week. Those with the north’s interests at heart (ie everyone here, bar the DUP) had been expecting Sunak to sack his feckless secretary of state.

On the face of it, Chris Heaton-Harris has no purpose other than to get under the skin of Brian Feeney. But Northern Ireland needs a secretary of state who provides less copy for Feeney and more action for people here who are hurting from the lack of effective political institutions.

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Westminster has nothing to offer

Only the most deluded think Westminster has anything to offer Northern Ireland. On all levels, every action of His Majesty’s Government undermines confidence in its ability to govern this part of the world.

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris
Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris

The north has suffered egregiously because of collateral damage from economic mismanagement driven by right-wing ideology. It has endured indifference to the social and cultural needs of different traditions in this part of Ireland. And it has seen the law manipulated to thwart justice for victims of state and paramilitary violence during the Troubles.

By their actions you shall know them. Pledges have been broken and our needs have been subverted by a cabal in London more interested in culture wars, self-aggrandisement, and lining their own pockets.

Union is a sham

The union with Britain is, and always was, a sham. Wake up unionism and smell the bacon.

Westminster turned a blind eye to rampant sectarianism, gerrymandering and discrimination from partition onwards; London fought a dirty war during the Troubles, going beyond the law when it suited, leaving many innocent victims in its wake; and then there was Brexit – the triumph of political extremism over reality, it destabilised the Good Friday Agreement.

In truth loyalists are not unionists in the fullest sense of the word. It’s clear they don’t really give a fig about the union. They are ‘Little Northern Irelanders’ intent on rebuilding the statelet in their own image.

Unionism has been misled too long. The link with Great Britain is a chimera, and we are all suffering because of it. The true interests of all who live here lie in an Ireland united and at peace with itself.