Gildernew: We’re doing our best on welfare reform

Michelle Gildernew Sinne Fein

JUST TWO weeks after an interview with this newspaper defending Sinn Fein’s agreement on welfare cuts, Michelle Gildernew’s party now appears to have suddenly abandoned their support for the welfare reform bill.

Stormont was once again facing uncertainty on Monday after Sinn Fein accused the DUP of breaking their promises on a pre-Christmas deal.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP’s party claimed that figures from social development minister, Mervyn Storey, showed that money sought from the deal did not protect the “most vulnerable” – people who going to be worst affected by the benefit cuts.


First Minister, Peter Robinson said he was “dumbfounded” by the fresh claims.

However, speaking to the Fermanagh Herald prior to this latest twist, Ms Gildernew stated that her party “did their best” over the Stormont House Agreement.

Speaking about welfare cuts and the impending Westminster elections, added that Sinn Fein stood firm on welfare reform.

“I believe our position offers protection to the most vulnerable, people with disabilities, long term sick and people who otherwise would have lost out,” she said.

“We have secured a six year package of approximately £65m, which is a big improvement. In addition to that financial package, funding has also been secured for the social fund and rates relief. Crucially, we ensured an option to have any enabling elements of this bill brought before the Executive for agreement.

“To us, it was extremely important that we stood firm on welfare reform. I’ve heard from people in Britain say how welfare reform has impacted on them and it’s absolutely terrifying that that Tory agenda could be imposed upon us and the most vulnerable in our society without an awful lot of concern for the most vulnerable.

“Parties like the DUP and Alliance weren’t even prepared to ask for any more. We were a lone voice in those negotiations defending the rights of the most vulnerable.”


It emerged on Monday that a £300 million gap in the agreement has put a wedge between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

Following her party’s agreement on December 23, last year, Sinn Fein were accused of doing a U-turn, however this was denied at the time.

The local MP, who is fighting to retain her seat in May’s elections, added: “I’m hearing people in Britain complaining about how we got a better deal than they did.”

Last month, MLAs were told at least 3,000 families with disabled children will be worse off by at least £26 per week when this becomes law.

When this was put to Ms Gildernew, she admitted she was not aware of this detail contained in the draft but added that if her party had failed to negotiate, everyone would have been “a lot worse off”.

She also denied that the party would lose voters because of their stance on welfare reform.

“We can do our best to try to ensure that people are not affected by it. But we do need partners in this. The fact is that other parties would have signed up for swinging cuts, a period of years ago. We have got to keep fighting the battle. Not just for lone parents, disabilities, working poor, non-working poor and the worst effect.

“I would defy anybody to say that anyone is better than we are.”

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