Belfast Telegraph

DUP welfare reform plans handed over to Sinn Fein by mistake, claims Gerry Adams

By Brian Hutton

Welfare reform plans threatening to collapse the Stormont Assembly were discovered by Sinn Fein after they were handed files mistakenly, party leader Gerry Adams has claimed.

Speaking in the Dail (Irish parliament), Mr Adams said Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was "inadvertently" given papers suggesting the DUP was intent on reneging on agreed reforms.

"He discovered it because we were given papers, we believe by mistake, we believe inadvertently, and when Martin discovered that, he spent several days last week, including during our Ard Fheis (annual conference), trying to meet with the DUP," he said.

"They failed to engage with us, but were told fully of our concerns."

Mr Adams said Taoiseach Enda Kenny's officials were also fully briefed on the apparent revelations over the weekend.

"These are red line issues," he said.

Mr Adams said the alleged discrepancies in what was agreed between the five Executive parties before Christmas meant only partial protection was being offered to current benefits recipients in Northern Ireland, and no protection at all for future recipients.

He accused the DUP of trying to conceal the details until after welfare reform legislation was passed.

During Leader's Questions, Mr Kenny agreed the current stalemate "was a serious matter".

Figures were agreed in detailed discussions before Christmas and there now appeared to be a discrepancy in the mathematics, he told the Parliament.

"This is a political matter and it is a political matter that is very serious," he added.

The Taoiseach said it was up to First Minister Peter Robinson and Mr McGuinness to "sit down as mature politicians and work this out".

"This is something that can be rectified," he added.

Responding to the claims, the DUP's Peter Weir said: "Sinn Fein’s stance on welfare reform has reached new heights of ridiculousness. Gerry Adams’ claims about files being handed to Sinn Fein have about as much credibility as his claim that he was never a member of the IRA."

"The DUP has spent several years now working to secure progress on welfare reform and to avoid the massive penalties imposed because of Sinn Fein’s fear of being outflanked by a combination of the SDLP and anti-austerity campaigners in Dublin."

The North Down MLA added: "Given the mixed messages from republicans over recent weeks about welfare reform it is likely that Sinn Fein’s negotiators are facing difficult questions from their grassroots. That however should not be justification for walking away from a five-party agreement."

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