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Battling on to secure a better deal

By Dolores Kelly

Published 02/06/2015

Dolores Kelly
Dolores Kelly

"Work to build on the strong… and make better the elements that are weak," was the SDLP's immediate response to Stormont House.

We were right. Take the past. The Panorama programme on collusion and republican denial around child abuse shows many still determined to deny victims truth and accountability. Right, too, are the SDLP to make better where Stormont House is weak on the past or on welfare.

Far from "breaking our word" on welfare, the SDLP would not break faith with those in need. We tabled amendments to legislation with more hard protection for claimants, less punitive sanctions, greater oversight of welfare.

In response, the DUP tabled petitions of concern and Sinn Fein voted down all. This was folly in itself and unfaithful, even, to Stormont House.

Take one example. All parties seem to agree that no person should lose a penny, or lose a home, because of the bedroom tax.

Yet, last month, the DSD (Department for Social Development) Minister, Mervyn Storey, said tenants were protected, but not if "there is a significant change in personal circumstances, or offered suitable alternative accommodation".

The folly of Sinn Fein and the DUP before has multiplied with a Tory majority. The Chancellor tells the CBI: "The more savings you can do early, the smoother the ride." That's what his Emergency Budget will deliver on July 8. We haven't seen the half of it.

The issue for the SDLP includes making stronger where Stormont House was weak on welfare, but this also needs to be resolved by challenging the welfare and Budget threats to come in less than 40 days.

That's what the First Minister in Scotland does. And that's not the only thing we can learn from Scotland.

The DUP call on the SDLP for "a credible plan". Our credible plan not only deals with Stormont House welfare, it faces up to the new threats to Budget and welfare that come with the July 8 Emergency Budget.

Remember: hardly once in the welfare debate last week did the DUP refer to the July 8 Emergency Budget. Now that really is burying heads in the sand.

Dolores Kelly is deputy leader of the SDLP and the party's welfare spokeswoman

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