The SDLP is prepared to jeopardise the Stormont House Agreement and the power-sharing institutions because their leader has lost control of his own party, Sinn Fein MLA Martin McGuinness has said.
“The sham politics of the last 24 hours has clearly demonstrated that we are now dealing with two parties within the SDLP,” Mr McGuinness declared.
“One party negotiated and signed up to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.
“The other party has today broken those commitments and dishonoured their own leader’s commitment that any amendments to legislation in the Agreement would be pursued and agreed through the party leader’s implementation group.
“The SDLP dissidents are clearly now in charge of the party and are prepared to risk the collapse of the Stormont House Agreement – and thereby the power-sharing institutions themselves – for the sake of party political grandstanding.
“If Sinn Féin had taken the approach advocated by the SDLP in relation to the Welfare Bill and the budget, there would be no agreement and no power sharing institutions. What we would have is Direct Rule by the Tories and all that would mean in terms of austerity, welfare cuts and water charges.
“But the SDLP rhetoric in the chamber today is nothing more than empty political posturing because what they didn’t tell the public is what they really did at Stormont House.
“The SDLP signed up to a welfare package that was far less that the one going through the Assembly today.
“They signed up to a package which did not include a multi-million pound supplementary payment fund and did not include protections for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long-term sick.
“The SDLP are being entirely disingenuous and they are shamefully putting the electoral ambitions of their own disjointed party over the needs of the people they claim to represent.”