A Derry People Before Profit Councillor has said it will take people power to overturn Welfare Reforms after he withdrew support for his own motion due to amendments which he said had resulted in a “missed opportunity”.
PBP Councillor Shaun Harkin proposed that the Council call for the scrapping of welfare reforms “to be added to the list of red-line issues raised in talks on revival of the Assembly and the Executive”, and also help raise awareness of the damage welfare reforms are doing, and assistance available to those affected. He further mooted that the Council convene a meeting of local trade unions reps, community organisations, advice groups and other relevant organisations to campaign for these goals.
Colr. Harkin accused the Tories of being “out to smash a hard won benefit system that has saved the lives of many, many people”. “We know that everywhere Welfare Reform has been introduced it has been a disaster for the people on the receiving end of it,” he said, adding that the arrival of PIP and other elements of it here have already had a devastating impact.
He said that despite appeals and evidence, a number of parties had voted in favour of allowing the British government to introduce Welfare Reform. Reflecting back to 2015, Colr. Harkin said that this was a devolved matter that never needed to happen. “It would have been better to stand up to the Tories than to allow these vicious reforms to cut across our communities and send people into poverty with no hope that we were going to reverse them down the line.”
He urged the Council to send “a very powerful message” to those in the talks at Stormont that the Council want to see reforms scrapped and said that this issue should be added to the list of red lines.
An amendment to the motion was proposed to the effect that no red lines are added to re-establishing the Assembly and this was backed by majority. Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly however said: “Stormont opened the door for this to happen. Trade unions have been found wanting. The opposition to this needs to come from the street, from grass roots.”
Opposing the amendment, Colr. Harkin said: “The message I’m taking from this Council is that it is going to be people power on the streets, it is going to be blocking bridges, occupying buildings, trade union strikes that are going to make the difference in terms of turning this around and abolishing these Welfare Reforms.”
The amended motion was carried with 26 voting in favour of it and six voting against.