Northern Ireland

Dossier shows DUP acted in bad faith over welfare reform say Sinn Féin

The media have gathered inside Stormont waiting for the outcome of the talks Image copyright Albert Kirk ex Twitter (BBC camerama)
Image caption Welfare reform was the subject of controversy during the Stormont talks in December

Sinn Féin has released a 25-page dossier to explain why it withdrew support from the welfare reform bill.

It repeats the party's accusation that the DUP "acted in bad faith" during talks between the two parties on welfare reform implementation.

Sinn Féin said it had made it clear it wanted to provide full protection for current and future benefits claimants.

The DUP said there "wasn't the money in December and there is not the money in March" for what Sinn Féin wanted.

"There's no point in pretending we can find £286m to meet Sinn Féin's belated demands on this and demands they did not ask to be included in the agreement," the DUP's Sammy Wilson said.

Mr Wilson said either Sinn Fein accepted that and let the executive operate within its budget, "or I think the only other consequence is that the government in Westminster accepts that this is not an issue that is going to be resolved by the Northern Ireland Assembly and takes welfare back and the whole benefits system back".

He added: "We have in black and white what was agreed in the Stormont House Agreement and then Stormont Castle and nowhere in that document does it mention that there would be future payments covered."

The Sinn Féin dossier includes a paper from the DUP's Mervyn Storey.

The paper says that providing a system for future claimants would be too complex to achieve within the timescales set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

The social development minister has said he is therefore proposing a scheme to cover "existing claimants only".

The Sinn Féin dossier says the £564m cost for a benefit top-up scheme contained in the Stormont Castle Agreement on welfare was described as "indicative" and therefore, is not definitive.

"The protection of existing and future claimants was the basis on which Sinn Féin endorsed the Welfare Bill," the party's Conor Murphy said.

"However, three weeks ago the DUP then attempted to roll back from the commitments made in the Stormont House Agreement by attempting to limit protections to existing claimants only.

"This is a clear example of DUP bad faith as these documents plainly demonstrate."

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