Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson has warned of “nuclear options” if Stormont doesn’t approve the Welfare Reform Bill.
Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson has warned of “nuclear options” if Stormont doesn’t approve the Welfare Reform Bill that would implement in Northern Ireland many of the welfare reforms being introduced by the UK government.
The SDLP and Sinn Fein have provided vigorous opposition to the legislation, despite a recent warning from the DUP finance minister Simon Hamilton that if the Bill isn’t approved Northern Ireland faces the prospect of losing “over a billion pounds” in penalties from the treasury.
Speaking last night to BBC Northern Ireland’s “The View” programme, the first minister indicated that the nuclear option would in all likelihood be Stormont losing control over social welfare and handing it back to Whitehall.
“If people are not capable of governing and taking those difficult decisions, then that power should not be devolved.
“It can be as simple as saying to the government: ‘This government is not competent to take difficult decisions because two of the parties in the five-party coalition are not prepared to take difficult decisions.
“Therefore, you have to take this off us. We no longer want to have devolved to us, these issues.”
Accusing the first minister of providing “backing vocals to scaremongers in his party rather than real leadership”, Alex Maskey, Sinn Fein chair of the Stormont committee overseeing welfare changes, launched a scathing attack on Robinson’s comments:
“I think it is a shameful exploitation of some of our most vulnerable people and a huge blunder on the part of the DUP, who are only attempting to mask their failures both to stand up to the British government and in terms of managing the health service.”
During the interview, the first minister was also frank in admitting that the DUP’s relationship with Sinn Féin has “got much worse since Sinn Féin increased its representation in the south”.
“It’s the Dáil team that drives it now,” said Mr Robinson.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.