Chronology of events from Sinn Fein dossier on Stormont House Agreement

In their bid to get back control the message in this debate, Sinn Fein have launched their dossier outling why they have Petition of Concerned the Stormont House Agreement. There appears to have been a great deal of contact between the party and the DUP advisor, Stephen Brimstone. The entire document is well worth a read, but here is Sinn Fein’s chronology of events

17th Dec-Peter Robinson presented a proposal to the five Executive parties (Paper 2) which was rejected by Sinn Féin as it did not provide full protection of current and future claimants in a number of clearly defined categories –families with children, children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sick.

18th Dec-Sinn Féin and the DUP concluded a more advanced agreement which included the above categories and the costings as set out in paper 3 by the Department for Social Development. Some projected costings were missing from this table in relation to Severe Disability Premiums. We were told by the Department that the costings could not be provided because of the uncertainty around future claimants.

23rd Dec-A new paper (paper 4) was then produced creating a Supplementary Payment Fund to provide protection for these specific groups. The status of the costings was described as
indicative and not definitive and a mechanism to review funding levels was greed in Year 3. This paper was annexed to the Stormont House Agreement which was endorsed by all parties. The Stormont House Agreement created a Supplementary Payment Fund to provide protection for a number of categories including children with disabilities.

29th Dec-The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle met and endorsed the agreement.

12th Jan-Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey, speaking in the Assembly said;

There is a huge amount of work. I have given an undertaking to the Assembly in relation to the information that we will bring to the Assembly, in terms of guidance notes and how the Bill will make it’s passage through the House. That will be subject to a paper that, I trust, I will be able to bring to the Executive shortly, so that we can progress the issue in a way that is efficient and effective, and so that no one in Northern Ireland is adversely affected as a result of the changes

The five party leaders met in the Executive Room to implement what had been agreed at the Stormont House there were 7 further meetings in January and February.

19th Feb-Sinn Féin received a draft Supplementary Payment fund Scheme (paper 5) from the DUP. This paper was to provide protections for families with children, children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sick. It failed to do that.

23rd Feb-Sinn Féin met with Minister Mervyn Storey and his DUP advisor Stephen Brimstone. We made it clear that the proposed scheme did not match what had been agreed. Following the meeting we emailed the DUP setting out our position;

On the back of our conversation today, just to reiterate, Sinn Féin agreed a package on the basis that it was for current and future and that the figures presented was for full loss of benefit.

24th Feb-DUP advisor Stephen Brimstone contacted the party by phone to say that a new paper was coming.

25th Feb-Sinn Féin received a new Supplementary Payment Fund paper (paper 6). This new version also excluded new claimants and only offered partial protection for current claimants.

Sinn Féin emailed Stephen Brimstone to reiterate that the proposed scheme did not reflect what was agreed between our parties

As I indicated in my email the other day to you, Sinn Féin agreed a package on the basis that it was for existing and future claimants and for the full and not partial loss of benefit. Just to re-iterate, any movement away from this will not be agreed by Sinn Féin

However the Supplementary Payment Fund paper did contain papers which had been prepared by the Department for Social Development to inform discussions between the DUP and Sinn Féin in December. The Department had assumed that these papers (annexes D,E and F contained in paper 6) had been provided to Sinn Féin. In fact they had been withheld from Sinn Féin. Some of the figures on which they were based were withheld.

These documents are clear evidence that the DUP not only acted in bad faith in December on the issue of welfare, but that they were dishonest in deliberately withholding from Sinn Féin important information supplied by the Department with the intention of distorting the outcome of the negotiations.

2nd March-Sinn Féin sought a meeting with the DUP.

3rd March- DUP advisor Stephen Brimstone met with Sinn Féin advisors.

4th March-Martin McGuinness met with Peter Robinson

5th March-Martin McGuinness met with Peter Robinson on three occasions. The second meeting was attended by the Department of Social Development.The Department officials confirmed what was contained in Annex F of paper 6 –that costings were for protecting existing and future ESA claimants.

Annex E of paper 6 shows that the figures provided for Child Additional Rates were for future claimants. Following these meetings the DUP agreed to commission new projections for the full protection of both existing and new claimants.

6th March-Peter Robinson had agreed to meet Martin McGuinness in Belfast. Martin McGuinness travelled from Derry and waited until 4pm. The DUP did not turn up. Martin McGuinness said he would make himself available for a meeting on the 7th or 8th even if it meant leaving the Ard Fheis. The DUP refused to engage.

9th March-The new projections were only supplied to Sinn Féin at 6pm on Monday 9th after Sinn Féin had submitted a Petition of Concern and the Bill had been withdrawn.

I await with bated breath the DUP response. Some questions based on this, why did the DUP not turn up to last weekends meetings and why did it take so long for information to be furnished on aspects of the welfare changes?

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  • chrisjones2

    The DUP misled someone? Never!!!

    DSD didn’t tell the whole truth? There’s a shocker. Have SF not been following PAC for the last 5 months?

    SF were blind to all this until last week? Do they believe in leprechauns and the tooth fairy too? Did years of Brit oppression blunt their ability to do basic maths beyond the skills needed in filling in expense claims?

    But the bottom line is simple. There is no more money. So suck it up or clear off and let the big boys deal with the issues. We can save £100m a year on the costs of the Assembly alone

  • Old Mortality

    It looks as if SF are seeking unlimited protection only for selected categories of claimants. They are content that claimants, current or future, without children or disability will suffer cuts.
    It is outrageous that a welfare cap is not to be applied to future claimants at least. Anyone in receipt of £23,000 a year in benefits is priced out of employment unless they are capable of earning £500 per week which must be a bit more than the fabled ‘average industrial wage’.
    This might well be a tactical exercise to shore up their vote across the border, but it is very bad strategy. Irish taxpayers should be very afraid.

  • Jim £53

    Sinn Féin did not actually use a PoC, and from what I can read this means that the bill will still receive royal assent, therefore nothing has changed at all. The bill is alive, until it is opposed properly. Which is very doubtful considering that Sinn Féin didn’t oppose one single amendment, including the bedroom tax.

    Villiers said today –

    “But in the interim the Government is proposing to continue with the legislation to complete its parliamentary progress because we are determined to implement the agreement fully and fairly.

  • mickfealty

    My first reaction is this document does not deal with ‘the Math’. That’s the bit Conor Murphy should have been watching for in the negotiations. Anyone from the Mart to Lyndon Johnson will tell you that its all about numbers.

    If you cannot read numbers you didn’t ought to be in politics.

    I want to dig a little further on the Storey quotes which I think must be a grab from Hansard and the Welfare Reform debate. I wonder if it was Steven Agnew (http://goo.gl/6cLGTA) that first freaked them?

    My other initial thought is the one about a hole and digging.

  • martin dorgan

    With the amount of advisers that SF have in NI parliament it can only be seen as a political gambit at this stage.On BBC Sunday Politics leader of SF spoke of London control.What are SF up to?

  • Guest

    SF & the SDLP are holding the other parties to the terms of the SHA. I don’t see SF blinking on this one. Can’t see them being afraid of fighting assembly/westminster elections on this.

    While the usual suspects are piling on SF can they at least answer one question. Are SF right to fight the welfare cuts or should they accept the package currently on the table?

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Are SF right to fight the welfare cuts or should they accept the package currently on the table?’

    Not if they have serious aspirations for a united Ireland in the foreseeable future. From that perspective SF should have been gagging for undiluted welfare reform.

  • Ciarán

    “If you cannot read numbers you didn’t ought to be in politics.”

    Even those numbers that read N/K? Key numbers were deliberately held back by the DUP and those numbers weren’t some easy to arrive, top of the head stuff… they were numbers that analysts at DSD produced through models that only they have access to.

    If the shoe was on the other foot and Sinn Fein had deliberately misled negotiations through withholding key data then I don’t think we’d be talking about the state of the DUPs maths skills…

  • Eamon Hanna

    Why is Conor Murphy, who is an MP, fronting up everything for Sinn Fein at the Assembly on this welfare issue? Why aren’t they putting up Mickey Brady, the SF welfare guru? He is their candidate in Newry & Armagh and I would have though that SF would have missed no opportunity to put him before the cameras.

  • chrisjones2

    No they are not. They are penalizing the workers who do work and the rest of society

  • chrisjones2

    dodging responsibility

  • chrisjones2

    Hes their star negotiator………. future leader ……blah …blah

  • SDLP supporter

    Note to Richard McAuley et al: if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

  • SDLP supporter

    Good God, Mickey Brady? 😉

  • Dan

    that extra £200million which Sinn Fein want to keep their public purse looting core vote in a style to which they are undeservedly accustomed would pay for 4 years of Air passenger duty.
    I know where I’d rather see the money going…and I know which would be of more benefit to the economy. ( probably another reason SF would oppose it)

  • The Firemen

    Blinkered, biased nonsense. This amounts to nothing more than a Sinn Fein press release. Shoddy.

  • The Firemen

    Sinn Fein DID use a valid POC.

    Why? No-one knows. Because without a POC the bill would have fallen anyway based on SF, UUP, SDLP no votes.

    Please check Hansard before posting nonsense http://aims.niassembly.gov.uk/officialreport/report.aspx?&eveDate=2015/03/09&docID=226892

  • The Firemen

    Perhaps Sinn Fein should invest in calculators and not iPads in future? There would be huge comedic value in having them in a position of power in the Republic of Ireland.

  • The Firemen

    Ahhhhhh….. Brimstone

  • mickfealty

    Well, if they were held back they aren’t in the dossier. I appreciate that SF doesn’t have the advantage of holding down the DFP post, but every other bugger round the Executive table knew about this £280 million shortfall and SF ridiculed them when they pointed it out.

    You can be too easily misled you know, particularly if you are letting your opponents lead you by the nose.

  • mickfealty

    Yes but the DUP did not present the Bill, so it has had no direct effect on the Bill.. It’s in limbo land just now…

  • Jim £53

    The PoC was lodged, but it wasn’t effected. It didn’t need to be used. The DUP withdrew the bill. A PoC against the welfare reform bill would kill it, not suspend it.

  • mickfealty

    Yes, fighting elections is a lot easier than trying sort the mess out here…

    Like I said before SF in reverse gear are, often as not, actually going forward.

    The SDLP will be good for a few more losses, since as ever they are all at sea when it comes to politics. Dumping the Corpo Tax may pay for a few things around the edges.

    And, hey, an ‘early’ Assembly election will be good for the DUP too. #HappyDays for all at the soon to be renamed Office of the Executive…

  • Guest

    So now the criticism of SF is that the amount of money they agreed to could not have funded all of the SHA document? Who else knew this was the case? The SDLP’s amendments indicate they did. Did the Unionist parties know? Did parties to the agreement lie?

    It’s a pity your monomaniacal focus on finding a reason to criticise SF blinds you to the larger picture and unanswered questions. But please proceed governor.

  • mickfealty

    Ahem, amendments which SF blew out of the water…

  • Granni Trixie

    Have SF a policy over use of ‘new skins’? Notice who gets the short straws in representing their Pov on welfare reform or child abuse on tv or radio ….not Mairtin o’M for instance. But then when he is interviewed seems to get an easy ride by journalists.
    I would genuinely be interested in answers as to where he stands on how SF has dealt with child abuse or welfare reform. Would he toe the party line?

  • barnshee

    It was the catholic education system what done it to me —all that irishy and I never worked on me sums . So them DUP blinded me with figures– but Conor got a degree in history (Irish version) and I see I have been diddled.

  • Guest

    Are the actions of no other party to this agreement worthy of analysis & discussion?

  • Zeno

    “Are SF right to fight the welfare cuts or should they accept the package currently on the table?”

    They basically accepted the package currently on the table twice. It won’t make much difference if they accept it again.

  • Zeno

    Good point. John O Dowd looks like their cannon fodder.