Welfare Reform: British Government Will Act If Parties Can't Agree

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), September 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

Welfare Reform: British Government Will Act If Parties Can't Agree


The British Government has decided to legislate on welfare reform in Northern Ireland if the Stormont parties cannot reach agreement.

The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein have been at loggerheads over the issue for months and the devolved administration in Belfast has been plunged into financial peril.

Unionists support a package of cuts which they described as the best deal possible with Westminster while Sinn Fein has opposed "austerity" measures which it believes will hurt the most vulnerable.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "W e have come to the conclusion that if the Executive cannot reach agreement on implementing the budget and welfare aspects of the Stormont House Agreement, as a last resort the Government will have to step in and legislate at Westminster for welfare reform in Northern Ireland.

"We would do so reluctantly, and only if we had exhausted all the realistic alternatives.

"But we cannot stand by and let this situation drag on indefinitely with Stormont becoming less and less able to deliver crucial public services."

Intensive negotiations initiated by the British and Irish governments are due to begin at Stormont next week.

It follows the shooting dead of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast last month by individual members of the Provisional IRA, which has thrown the political institutions into fresh turmoil. …

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