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Theresa May must fight to establish 'special status' when it comes to welfare reform in Northern Ireland

I read with interest your item (News, February 18) about the seriously ill Belfast man, who will be adversely affected by welfare reform. I have since been contacted by this man's cousin, who supplied me with further, horrific information. Unfortunately, this patient is not alone in the situation he faces.

You might think that I, as an office bearer in the Conservative Party, am writing this letter in an attempt to justify welfare reform. This I am not prepared to do. A society is judged on the way it treats its most disadvantaged members and I would never attempt to justify what is unjustifiable.

We are all aware of the unique problems we are faced with in Northern Ireland. We have higher unemployment levels, higher levels of sickness and disabilities, higher levels of mental illness, higher food costs, higher transport costs, and considerably lower wages, lower disposable income and lower levels of suitable public housing.

Aspects of welfare reform are akin to punishing innocent, vulnerable people and I am happy to state categorically and publicly that this is wrong.

Given all our additional difficulties, I believe that there is a strong case to be made for "special status" here as regards welfare reform. To those people who would maintain that this could not be done, I would respectfully point out that there is already a precedent.

Our Prime Minister, Theresa May, has stated publicly on a number of occasions that she will fight for "special status" for Northern Ireland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

If she can do that in relation to Brexit, she can - and most certainly should - do it for welfare reform.

PAUL CAUGHEY

Chairman, Strangford Conservative Association

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