David Cameron yesterday supported DUP calls to progress welfare reform in Northern Ireland – with Sinn Fein hitting back that the measures will impact on low income voters right across the Province.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Question Time, Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson called on the Prime Minister to “join with me in condemning Sinn Fein’s foolish approach to welfare reform, which is not protecting the vulnerable in Northern Ireland but is costing the Northern Ireland Executive £5m per month in fines”.
Mr Cameron responded that the DUP MP was “right about welfare reform”.
He added: “The point of welfare reform is to help people get back to work rather than just to cut budgets and we need to explain to all the parties in Northern Ireland that we should be engaging in welfare reform to help get people back to work.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Simpson said responsibility for the likely impact of delays on Stormont departments lies with republicans.
“Sinn Fein regularly like to position themselves as being on the side of those who are most vulnerable in our society,” he said.
“However, it is the actions of Sinn Fein in blocking welfare reform which is hurting those people most and costing the Northern Ireland Executive £5m per month in fines,” he said.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has secured “vital” concessions and the Secretary of State has made it clear the Government will not move on this issue, he added.
But Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy described the claim by Mr Cameron that reform is about getting people back to work as “ridiculous”.
“Sinn Fein remains opposed to welfare cuts, which will hit the least well off in our society the hardest,” he said.
“The DUP’s David Simpson in a question to David Cameron described Sinn Fein’s stance on opposing welfare cuts as foolish. I think he needs to ask himself what is foolish about standing up for the most vulnerable in society.”