SDLP: Pat Ramsey says he is happy to be described as a ‘dissident’ by Martin McGuinness

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey. (2307C39a)

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey. (2307C39a)

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Pat Ramsey has described comments made by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness referring to the SDLP as dissidents as ‘most awful.’

Speaking to The Derry Journal Mr. Ramsey said: “If defending rights and services for the disabled makes me a dissident in the eyes of Sinn Fein, then I happily dissent to their stoney-faced acceptance of Welfare Reform.”

Mr. Ramsey was commenting on Deputy First Minister’s statement, suggesting that some SDLP members had engaged in sham politics. Mr McGuinness also described some of those within the SDLP as “dissidents” claimed that they purposely sabotaged the Stormont House Agreement for “the sake of political grandstanding.”

Mr. Ramsey responding stating: “If by arguing the case for an Independent Living Fund, which the Minister agreed was important, if by defending the rights and independence of the disabled, if by seeking to protect the already threadbare health budget, if by seeking to avoid the segregation of the disabled from the community into sheltered and supporting housing, which would need to be built, then I am indeed a dissident.

“Many families, carers and disabled people will be appalled at what I judge to be most awful comments. Comments which have no place in democratic politics. Since the debate I have had members from all parties including many from Sinn Fein complimenting me on and thanking me for my contribution.

Continuing Mr. Ramsey added: “I oppose any budget which does not make provision for those most exposed to the harsh economic realities of these austere times.

“I happily supported the SDLP amendment to safeguard the Independent Living Fung, a matter I have been concentrating my efforts on from before the Stormont House Agreement was signed.

“Perhaps the Deputy First Minister will now appreciate, as the Minister for Social Development did following my comments in the Assembly, why we tabled this amendment. It was in order to secure clarity and definitive commitments, as the Minister very kindly gave tome and those members of our community who are totally reliant on the fund.

Speaking during Tuesday’s Assembly debate, Mr. Ramsey, who chairs the All-Party Groups on learning disability and disability, said: “The ILF enables people to employ carers in cases in which clearly more profound needs are involved, and it enables parents or carers to employ people to take the disabled person to their home, thus giving those parents or carers some respite. Therefore, we need to know.

“Amendment No 17 is a very important amendment, because it reflects what is happening across Northern Ireland. It is the duty of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to monitor the inclusion of disabled people across Northern Ireland.”