An independent Derry City & Strabane District Councillor has pledged to stomp up £1,000 from his own pocket for those facing hardship this Christmas.
Darren O’Reilly has now called on his council colleagues to do the same.
Colr. O’Reilly was speaking during the Derry and Strabane Supercouncil‘s monthly meeting on Thursday this week, during the debate on a motion tabled by Sinn Fein Councillor Elisha McCallion opposed to the imposition of Tory welfare cuts here.
Colr McCallion said: “What we are witnessing at present from these cuts are attacks on the most vulnerable, the sick, the disabled, those without work and those on low incomes,”
In a recorded vote, the motion- a replica of one proposed by Colr. McCallion and adopted by Derry City Council on Tuesday- was carried by 26 Councillors to 10.
UUP and DUP Councillors voted against it, while Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the four independents on the council all endorsed it.
An amendment was mooted by Strabane Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher, stating that the council would not support the implementation of the cuts by the Assembly at the behest of the Tories, now or in the future.
This addition to the proposal was accepted by Colr. McCallion and included in the motion, while another amendment proposed by UUP Councillor Derek Hussey was not accepted.
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said his party would have no problem supporting the motion and warned that reducing housing benefit- one of several parts of the Welfare Reform Bill- could potentially cause homelessness.
He also said that his party had brought forward a petition to kill the bill which was not supported by any other party in the Assembly, and called on Sinn Fein to urge their MPs to take their seats at Westminster, where the bill was enacted.
DUP Councillor Maurice Devenney echoed those sentiments. He said that Labour had made it clear that the welfare reforms would not be abolished.
Colr. O’Reilly said that in the area he works in Derry,, a growing number of people are relying on food banks, with a number of people needing toys and basic resources like clothing.
He pledged £1,000 to alleviate hardship problems in the run up to Christmas and challenged his fellow councillors to do the same.
Colr. McCallion thanked the members for their comments, but said that the bill would have passed through Parliament whether Sinn Fein members were there or not. She also accused the DUP of “scaremongering” after they listed what they said were the likely effects on the ground of not implementing the cuts.