Eamonn McCann says Sinn Féin has “joined the ranks of the austerity parties” and claims “staying in government with the DUP took precedence over standing by the most vulnerable.”
He said: “If the Coalition in the South introduced this sort of package, Sinn Féin would be elbowing its way to the front of street protest.
“This deal underlines the necessity of a radical alternative to the DUP, SF and other parties of the status quo. People Before Profit will be offering this alternative in the forthcoming Assembly election. We need an election asap – and the election of people with different politics.”
He claimed new money made available to tackle “welfare fraud” was expenditure misdirected, claiming welfare fraud is tiny in Northern Ireland.
He claimed that under the deal, the Assembly will agree not only to the welfare cuts introduced in 2012 but also to the new cuts currently before Westminster, which will see a benefit cap of just £20,000 per annum for families with children.
The new deal also includes cuts to all working age benefits, including Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and even Employment and Support Allowance, he said.
Mr McCann continued: “No genuinely anti-austerity party would have signed up to this.”
The DUP/SF plan also involves “challenging cost reduction targets for each of the nine new departments’”.
Mr McCann said that means more austerity.
“The only issue that SF propagandists can claim a concession on is the bedroom tax, which will not affect current tenants. This measure acted like a lightning rod for anger against the welfare cuts generally,” he said.
“Protecting current (but not future) tenants from the tax helped give DUP/SF political space to endorse the overall welfare cuts package. That might provide cover, but of the fig-leaf variety.
“Parties should stop talking out of both sides of their mouths. In the coming weeks, People Before Profit will be challenging Sinn Féin members and supporters to take a different road.”