Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has accused the DUP of acting in bad faith on welfare protections and has said that Sinn Féin will oppose the passage of the welfare bill in the assembly.
Martin McGuinness said:
“Since the turn of the year Sinn Féin has engaged proactively and positively with the Party Leaders’ group to ensure the full implementation of the Stormont House agreement.
“We have honoured our commitments and have worked constructively to put in place the welfare protections agreed last December.
“This package protects children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities, the long-term sick and children in large families. We have been clear that the enactment of these protections is a red line issue for Sinn Féin.
“We have faithfully supported the implementation of the agreement on the floor of the Assembly.
“At Stormont House the five parties agreed a series of measures to protect the vulnerable and safeguard current and future welfare claimants under the control of the executive.
“However, the DUP have acted in bad faith and are now reneging on their commitments to protect the most vulnerable. It is their intention to provide only partial protection to current recipients of benefit and no protection whatsoever for future claimants.
“That is totally unacceptable. If the DUP want to strip benefits from children with disabilities, from adults with severe disabilities, the long-term sick; or push children further into poverty, then they need to explain and justify that. Sinn Féin certainly will not accept that approach.
“Until such times as the minister can produce a scheme for agreement which gives effect to the intent of the Stormont House Agreement by providing full protection for current and future claimants, Sinn Féin will not be in a position to support the Welfare Bill going through the Assembly.
“We are now pursuing a Petition of Concern.
“The DUP have attempted to effect Tory welfare cuts by subterfuge but at the heart of this crisis is the ideologically driven attack on the welfare state by the Tory-led government in London.
“As we have repeatedly stated publicly Sinn Féin will not be part of any agenda that punishes the most vulnerable in our society.”