Sinn Fein demands News Letter retract west Belfast editorial

Rankin Armstrong News Letter Editor
Rankin Armstrong News Letter Editor

Sinn Fein has called on the News Letter to “retract and apologise for” an editorial which described west Belfast as “lavishly taxpayer-funded” through the benefits system.

The Morning View supported the view of three senior unionists — Lord Trimble, Peter Robinson and Jim Allister — that Westminster should remove Stormont’s powers over social security benefits.

It said: “A key tenet of [welfare] reform is that disincentives to work must be eradicated.

“Most people outside of lavishly taxpayer-funded republican strongholds such as west Belfast see this.

“But there is little prospect of Sinn Fein accepting reform, so the matter should go back to Westminster.”

In a statement yesterday, Sinn Fein’s West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said his party would be reporting this newspaper to the Press Complaints Commission, although he did not specify which section of the editors’ code the News Letter is alleged to have broken.

“The editorial comment in today’s News letter is insulting in its use of outdated and negative bias,” he said.

“Editorials in newspapers should not be used as a platform to denigrate and stereotype entire communities.”

He said it was the News Letter’s prerogative to support “Tory-driven” welfare cuts but slammed the editorial as “insulting and patronising”.

Figures compiled by non-political Assembly research staff — which were published last year — show that of all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies West Belfast has the highest percentage of the adult population claiming at least one benefit, with more than half (50.7 per cent) of those over 16 claiming at least one benefit. The Northern Ireland average is 39.8 per cent.

The report also shows that West Belfast has more people claiming disability benefits and more people claiming unemployment benefits than any other part of the Province.

News Letter editor Rankin Armstrong said: “We stand over the editorial. The figures speak for themselves. Many realise that helping people to get off benefits and into work is not only in the interests of taxpayers, but is also better for those who have in some cases been abandoned to a life of dependency on the state.”

Six years ago, Mr Maskey’s predecessor as MP for West Belfast, Gerry Adams, reacted angrily when the Andersonstown News printed a column by its editor, who wrote a column under the name ‘Squinter’, in which he accused Mr Adams of having failed the area. The following week, the paper carried a front page apology to Mr Adams for the “hurt” caused.

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