The News Letter should be “congratulated” for making a “clear, unambiguous argument for helping people into work and out of poverty”, the Conservatives have said.
On Tuesday, Sinn Fein said it would be reporting this newspaper to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) for an editorial about welfare reform which described West Belfast as “lavishly taxpayer funded” from benefits.
The party demanded an apology and retraction but News Letter editor Rankin Armstrong made clear that he was standing over the Morning View, pointing to Government figures which show that more than half of people in West Belfast claim benefits — the highest in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Conservative spokesman Mark Brotherston accused Sinn Féin of “attempting to silence good journalism around the issue of welfare reform”.
He said that the party’s threat to report this newspaper to the constituted “pathetic bullying”.
Mr Brotherston said: “Not only does Sinn Féin want to rehearse ridiculous, threadbare arguments against helping people off benefits and into work, now it wants to silence a rising chorus of voices, appalled by its hostility to welfare reform.
“The News Letter’s chief offence is to see straight through a party which simply does not want to see voters in its own strongholds get off benefits, get into work and enjoy the fruits of prosperity. Sinn Féin relies on making people feel poor, helpless and dependent.”
Accusing the party of being “against aspiration”, he added: “When has Sinn Féin articulated a single, positive idea about the type of welfare system it wants to see?
“When has it voiced its argument against helping people off dependency on benefits? It can only trot out a tired litany of snide remarks about Tories and the British government.
“The News Letter should be congratulated for making a clear, unambiguous argument for helping people into work and out of poverty, of the kind not always heard in Northern Ireland.
“It should not be bullied by a political party whose political success depends upon condemning people to a life on benefits.”