I've grown tired of pretending that austerity is nothing more than pulling our socks up and tightening our belts. People are starving, homeless, falling through the cracks of society and dying.
Pulling our socks up? Spare me.
I grew up in a home where one parent was unable to work due to a chronic progressive illness and the other was forced to give up work to care for them full time. If it hadn't been for the welfare state then my brother and I wouldn't have been able to go to school, get an education, eat when we came home and have clothes on our backs. The welfare state is responsible for giving me the best start in life. A working class Protestant boy from Dundonald who grew up in Ballybeen estate. We aren't known for our propensity for educational achievement. The shadow of the Sampson Goliath cranes of the Harland & Wolff shipyard still loom over inner East Belfast as a reminder of an economy that has long since vanished into the ether. Opportunity doesn't come along as easily as it does to others.
I am tired of pretending that the gradual dismantling of the public sector and community support networks reliant on public funding is OK for the sake of political expediency. I'm not and I will never be complicit in the hollowing out of my community nor will I endorse welfare reform in its current guise.
The Conservative government will take a newly sharpened axe to public services and support networks without the opposition of the Lib Dems and a strong Labour parliamentary party. Make no mistake that the worst is yet to come and Northern Ireland will bear the brunt of a Tory majority. Our NI Executive is impotent in the face of austerity. Sinn Fein and the SDLP have managed to agree on the best way to run our economy into the ground by reneging on the Stormont House Agreement which is now non existent. Water charges, prescription charges, an end to subsidised transport for the elderly, closure of hospital departments, closure of educational establishments are all coming under the guise of 'revenue raising'.
The elderly, sick, the poor, those on welfare, carers, students, the disabled will all be asked to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for an economy that was wielded by Labour like a kid who found his dad's gun. The Executive parties can't agree on the colour of mud so how can we actually expect them to put up a cohesive defence against austerity? Any chance we had of alleviating the worst impact of welfare reform has now been lost as our political leaders dithered over implementing the Welfare Reform Bill.
There should always have been a united opposition against Tory cuts. Sinn Fein can't stand on the side of the picket lines with those on strike and wave through the same cuts that have forced them onto the streets. It's insulting and disgusting. For someone like me, a gay rights activist, it is imperative that we keep the pressure on for things like equal marriage but even if we get it it won't make a difference if LGBT can't afford to live. We'll have all these married gay couples running around with no jobs, no homes and no support networks to depend upon when they try to do things like adopt, buy a house, find a job etc.
Equality means nothing if we can't rely on a strong society and a strong social sector to help us up when we fall down. The cracks in our social floor aren't just widening, they are being torn open by a Government that doesn't care, doesn't want to care and doesn't want to know. The coming storm of cuts will completely devastate any chance we have of maintaining what little we have. Hold on tight, it's about to get very bumpy.