Public meeting on benefit fears

Newry and Armagh Sinn F�in MLA Micky Brady, left, with Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin. (0210MM01)
Newry and Armagh Sinn F�in MLA Micky Brady, left, with Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin. (0210MM01)

A public meeting will be held in Derry on Friday to discuss the impact of the British government’s welfare reforms.

The meeting has been organised by Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin and will include a panel discussion featuring Newry and Armagh MLA and welfare campaigner Mickey Brady.

The welfare reform awareness event will also feature representatives from a range of community and statutory agencies who will be on hand to provide information on benefits, housing, and other aspects of welfare reform.

It will take place in the new Sinn Féin office at the entrance to Rathmor Business Park, Creggan, from 11am to 1.30pm and the panel discussion, which will feature Mr Brady, Ms McLaughlin, and Maureen Collins from Dove House will take place at 12 noon.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Brady said welfare reform could have a devastating impact on the poorest communities in the north. “If implemented in the North the way it’s being done in Britain, this Welfare Reform agenda will likely drive more people into poverty. Many people will have seen the programmes highlighting horror stories of people losing their rightful entitlements and sadly some even taking their own lives as a result.”

The Assemblyman said the cuts are being driven by Westminster and added that Stormont must be given more powers to implement its own policies. “While much of the discussions in the Assembly in the months ahead will be about how we do all of this, we should not forget where responsibility for all of this rests. We have a job to do yet with the British Government. The period ahead must include meaningful discussions with the British treasury, it must mean pressing the case for variations in application in the north without reductions in frontline services,” he said.

He also called for a united front from all parties in the Assembly against the government’s plans. “None of the parties in the Assembly can contemplate acquiescence in this agenda. While we do not for a minute support the imposition of this agenda elsewhere, nor should we allow it to go unconsidered that the circumstances in the north are much different to those in England, for example. We have a higher cost of living and higher levels of poverty, disability and unemployment for example.

“The Assembly has a duty to protect the most vulnerable, to address the issue of objective need.

“People on benefits are disadvantaged. But they have rights and their rights must be protected; that’s the job of all the elected representatives. So, there is a lot of work still be done.

“And no-one should be taken for granted in how we arrive at decisions on the way forward.”

The event is free and anyone can attend. Tea and coffee will be provided. For more information contact Bridget or Joanne at SF’s Creggan office on 71 377 551.