Martin McGuinness accuses DUP of “reneging on their commitments to protect the most vulnerable”

The warning is there in Martin McGuinness’ speech to his party’s ard fheis on Friday evening.

Of course, as George Mitchell famously pointed out, the most difficult phase of any agreement is the implementation. That is the phase we are now in but let me give you this commitment: The welfare protections we agreed are an absolute red line issue for SF. No matter how difficult the implementation process may get, we will not – under any circumstances – tolerate any retreat from them.

But the overall tone was much more upbeat and pointed to the Stormont House Agreement and protections of welfare reform as an example of successful negotiation.

… the Executive is forced to make difficult choices and for Sinn Fein these choices are entirely based on our defence of the welfare state and the protection of the most vulnerable. That is why … we delivered £564m additional welfare protection …

We also agreed [emphasis added] with the DUP and the other Executive parties a package of protection for those who would have faced benefit cuts as a result of welfare reform. Our protected welfare system has eliminated the Tory cuts which are being imposed on the most vulnerable in Britain and which they sought to impose here on our most vulnerable. To achieve this protection we collectively committed £564m over the next six years – money which will remain directly in the hands of the most vulnerable. If that injection of funds into the welfare system was replicated in the south it would be in the region of 2.2 billion euros.

The categories of welfare recipients we have protected include children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and families who would have been affected by the benefit cap. In addition the punitive bedroom tax has been neutralised. No-one in the north of Ireland will pay a bedroom tax. We will not be part of an agenda which pushes more children into poverty or targets the disabled as a way to save money. That is why we negotiated and agreed to protect those benefits under the control of the Assembly so that the categories of claimants targeted by the Tories in Britain will be protected by the unique measures we are putting in place here.

But at this morning’s press conference, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness accused the DUP of “reneging on their commitments to protect the most vulnerable”, saying that their unionist partner in government would “provide only partial protection to current recipients of benefit and no protection whatsoever for future claimants”. [Ed – that would have raised the roof if he’d said it in the Millennium Forum at the weekend!]

We are now pursuing a Petition of Concern.

Full statement online.

Politically, the party held back on making this announcement to avoid overshadowing the other key messages at the ard fheis. Gerry’s rubber ducky socks and messages of southern political ambition and anti-austerity would have been severely diluted if a northern political crisis had been announced.

Jonathan Powell and Tony Blair will not be surprised. NI politicians have a long history of wheeling and dealing long after the ink is dry on an agreement.

The institutions are no more at risk that they were this time last week. We’re just playing rough in the political sandpit. The crisis will be averted. In the meantime, a lot of fingers will be pointed between the corridor between the First and deputy First Ministers’ rooms.

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Alasdair McDonnell accused Sinn Féin of “having abused” the SDLP prior to today’s “U-turn” …

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  • chrisjones2

    So it was all another con. There was no intention to deliver reform and now it collapses.

    What use is this shambles? What happens to the extra money they got on the back of it

  • barnshee

    “We are now pursuing a Petition of Concern.”

    Sorry– parcel out the money sent as you see fit

    Why not raise some more yourself?
    Local income tax ( additional) ?
    Water charges?
    Increase rates?

    Or just keep robbing Peter to pay Paul– explain that the redundancies /cuts in Education etc are necessary for the ” protection for those who would have faced benefit cuts as a result of welfare reform.”

    Keep going in hope that the Brit taxpayer will cough up and the garvy train will last a bit longer. Hopefully the absence of clothes on the emperor will remain unnoticed until after the election.

  • Dan

    Close that frigging farcical Assembly down now.

  • Kevin Breslin

    They have five or six years to reevaluate the effects of welfare reform on the most vulnerable, surely a continuing fiscal study is in order as the best alternative to ideological Conservative cuts (Cuts that are a vote winner in England but which the right wing parties of unionism: UUP, DUP, UKIP and the TUV would not want to touch with a 40ft bargepoll in their purest form).

  • chrisjones2

    No dont do that, Make them all sweat,

  • Joe_Hoggs

    How does this agreement in anyway protect the vulnerable in our society?

  • chrisjones2

    I assume you mean the Stoops? My how they will run

  • mickfealty

    Reverse ferrets all over the show after the weekend’s charm offensive… Do we have any details, or is this another policy free zone?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Excuse me??

  • chrisjones2

    This is nothing to do with the vulnerable. Its a naked political move to out position the SDLP in the run up to the election. Do they go with the SF Wrecking Petition (Bad SDLP screw benefit claimants) or Support the petition (being seen again as the me too party)

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I understand, what is a Stoop?

  • chrisjones2

    Its a term of mild abuse / political street slang for a member of the SDLP

    I try to show that I am still ‘down in the hood’ as it were

  • Zig70

    It’s a term used by folks who want a united Ireland in a socialist republican utopia without a consensus of fellow nationalists and put down anyone else (sdlp) who don’t share their rhetoric fed message with childish name calling.

  • eiregain

    stoop down low party

  • james

    Indeed. A reminder to NI Nationalists, and indeed the people of the Republic, that while Protestants are the favourite targets of Republicans, essentially anyone who doesn’t go along is considered fair game.

  • james

    I wonder what proportion of the most vulnerable have been made so by Martin’s IRA?

  • barnshee

    “What use is this shambles? What happens to the extra money they got on the back of it”

    What about they “fines” do they continue?

  • Dan

    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/abs0_l6r8TA/0.jpg

    They should add that picture to each signature on the petition of concern.

  • puffen

    This is what happens when you fight two elections in two different jurisdictions,however figures don’t lie, and if the spreadsheets show that the SHA made no provision for future claimants all will come clear, why are shinners only kicking up a bruha now, are they really that incompetent.

  • chrisjones2

    Oh do wake up! SFs main aim is to destroy the stoops nothing else

  • james

    Well, yes. It is painfully obvious that that is what they are up to with this particular gambit. My point generally is that Saint Patrick may well have rid the country of snakes, but not in perpituity. Is ‘Stoops’ a Sinn Fein approved term?

  • Glenn Clare

    So the shinners/provos are going to bring down Stormont for a British minister to now rule over us and bring in all the welfare reform with no get out clause and bring in water charges.
    And there’s me thinking the Unionist were barking.
    Seen wee Marty on the TV there and he looks like he has had this decision made for him.

  • Practically_Family

    Tenses!

  • murdockp

    The most vulnerable in society?

    The fraud is off the scale in NI

    Newry is the blue badge capital of the world and not a limp in sight

  • murdockp

    Yes comrade, I must dash as my kids need to go to their sinn fein youth rish citizen classes and I have to meet comrade gerry down on the collective farm

  • John Calvert

    Exactly, meanwhile the money needed to sustain all this fraud has to come from somewhere and that means less money for Education and Infrastructure investments. They’re planning on decimating the education budget and firing thousands of teachers to make sure their own base get to keep their nice DLA cars and to make damned sure that the North remains an anti-business backwater sustained by massive subventions from the Treasury.