SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan, has accused Sinn Fein of being “reckless” over their threat to block the welfare reform bill.
In an exclusive interview with The Derry Journal, Mr. Durkan described the threat to oppose the bill made by Martin McGuinness MLA yesterday as a “sham”.
“The SDLP has led the opposition to these aspects of welfare reform that punish the struggling, the sick and the vulnerable. Throughout this fight we have been frustrated by the ignorance of the DUP and Sinn Féin who vetoed, voted against and disrupted our reasoned attempt to salvage this legislation.
“Sinn Féin have recklessly and blindly followed the DUP without securing firm guarantees. Our amendments were a way of doing that and I’m glad that Sinn Féin have woken up to the reality and joined us in our principled opposition to this attack on the vulnerable.”
Yesterday morning, Sinn Fein MLA and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, insisted his party would oppose the welfare bill because the DUP had acted in “bad faith” when it came to protecting the most vulnerable in society.
Sinn Fein had originally signed up to support the Stormont House Agreement but yesterday’s twist throws it into doubt.
In contrast, the SDLP were prepared to support an agreement which fell short of what we achieved and did not include protections for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sickSinn Fein MLA for Foyle, Maeve McLaughlin
“Sinn Fein’s late u-turn is irresponsible; it puts in jeopardy the future of the institutions. While we welcome the fact they will not support this legislation as it hits the most vulnerable in our society the hardest, we cannot accept this sort of ‘flip flop’ politics where Sinn Fein change their tune whenever it suits them,” said Mr. Durkan.
“A few weeks ago Martin McGuinness called the SDLP ‘dissidents’ for not supporting the welfare bill, when all we had done was present workable mitigation amendments intended to secure the safety net negotiated at Stormont House.
“Sinn Fein opposed our amendments, they accused us of scaremongering and now when there is no opportunity to build these protections into the law they now u-turn and say it’s not good enough.
“The SDLP will oppose the welfare reform bill not because of this sham today but because we opposed it at every stage because the legislation did not get the amendments it needed to protect the most vulnerable or bring forward the mitigation agreed at Stormont House.
When contacted by The Derry Journal for a response to Mr. Durkan’s accusations, Sinn Fein MLA for Foyle, Maeve McLaughlin, said: “Sinn Féin’s position on this issue is clear. We are totally opposed to austerity north and south and have campaigned rigorously against the Tory-led government’s welfare cuts agenda.
“We led the campaign against cuts with a day of action in cities towns and villages across the North, petitions, leaflets and, crucially, in the negotiations at Stormont House.
“Sinn Féin demonstrated its commitment to protecting the poorest and most vulnerable in our society while others sat on their hands and did nothing.
“In contrast, the SDLP were prepared to support an agreement which fell short of what we achieved and did not include protections for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sick.”