A CALL has been made for the DUP to get back to work and ensure financially-strapped Fermanagh residents can access energy payments promised to them.
The UK Government recently announced a series of payments – which will total £600 – for each household to use towards electricity and heating costs.
Due to the current cost of living crisis, many residents in Fermanagh, the North and the UK have been struggling to pay their home fuel bills with the payments being seen as a welcome ‘helping hand’.
Residents in England, Scotland and Wales are accessing these payments. However, due to an Executive not being formed at Stormont, there is no functioning body to administer the distribution of the energy payments.
A fresh attempt will be made today at Stormont to form an Executive but the DUP show no signs of wanting to form one.
Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone,Jemma Dolan, demanded that the DUP – who have been boycotting the Executive over issues regarding the NI Protocol – get back to work so that those in need can pay their bills. has said an Executive must be formed now to ensure people get the £600 energy payment right away.
She said: “It is totally unacceptable that struggling families will not receive the £600 payment before Christmas to help with energy bills.
“We need an Executive formed as a matter of urgency. We need parties working together to ensure people get this payment right away.
“They could and should already have the money. The DUP’s boycott of government has held up this payment and left people worrying about a cold winter with no support.
“Enough is enough. People cannot wait any longer, they need support now as the cold winter begins to bite.
“The DUP’s political games must end. The people deserve an Executive that will work in their interests.
“Sinn Féin are recalling the Assembly on Wednesday in another effort to form an Executive and put ministers in place.
“All the other parties are ready and willing to work together. It’s time for the DUP to do the same.”
Meanwhile, DUP MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone, Deborah Erskine, hit back by accusing Sinn Féin of putting up a distraction to “spare the blushes” of the UK Conservative government.
She said: “The Energy Support Payment could and should have already been paid to households in Northern Ireland. The only reason this has not happened is because of a lack of political will in London.
“The Conservative Government must be delighted that Sinn Fein is riding to their rescue and distracting from where the blockage actually lies.
“The Department for Business in London has the funding in place and it has the systems in place used to distribute these payments across all other parts of the UK. Energy companies were ready in October to distribute the payments, but Westminster Ministers decided to shift the goalposts and introduce a ‘cash out’ option that was specifically ruled out earlier in the summer.
“Devolving these payments would only delay them further, as a local scheme would have to be devised. This makes no sense when the UK Government Department could release the payments immediately. It is disgraceful that payments are being withheld from Northern Ireland households.
“Only Sinn Fein can answer why they are sparing Conservative blushes on this issue.”
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