Belfast Telegraph

Attack on welfare cuts rejected

The Northern Ireland assembly has rejected a motion expressing concern about welfare reform and calling on the e xecutive to oppose Tory cuts.

The Sinn Fein motion argued that the changes had already had a "disastrous impact" on vulnerable people in Britain. It was defeated by 54 votes to 36.

Northern Ireland faces penalties for not endorsing changes passed by Westminster in February 2013.

First minister Peter Robinson has warned that the political dispute between the DUP and Sinn Fein which could lead to £1 billion in Treasury fines being cut off the public spending budget is capable of bringing the Stormont administration down.

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey said: "The implementation of these cuts in Britain have been a disaster and even the coalition parties are split on key aspects of the welfare legislation.

"Sinn Fein is opposed to Toryism and austerity north and south because we are an all-Ireland party and because it is the right thing to do."

Sinn Fein and the DUP cannot agree to legislate on a welfare reform deal advocated by Westminster, which Social Development minister Nelson McCausland argued represented the best deal in the British Isles.

Sinn Fein has said it wanted to protect communities against the cuts and challenged the minister to bring welfare legislation to the floor of the assembly.

Mr McCausland claimed: "This is about Sinn Fein sacrificing the people of Northern Ireland for their ambition of a united Ireland. It is simply as cold and crass as that."

Mr Robinson has said it was imperative a solution was found to the disagreement before fines imposed by the Treasury take effect.

The Chancellor's department pays about £10 billion a year to prop up public services in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein's motion said: "That this assembly notes with deep concern the disastrous impact of welfare cuts in Britain, particularly on the most vulnerable in society including families on low income, those with disabilities and those who are unemployed."

It added that the assembly "asserts that a modern, caring society should place the protection of its most vulnerable citizens at the very top of its agenda; and calls on the executive to oppose this Tory cuts agenda".

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