Hours after Sinn Fein’s bombshell rejection of a welfare deal which for two months it has defended in the face of left-wing opposition, Gerry Adams last night set out the party’s rationale for yesterday’s decision.
Yet his remarks did nothing to prove Sinn Fein’s justification for abandoning December’s deal — the allegation that the DUP reneged on a promise to ensure that no benefit claimant, now or in the future, loses any money.
The Sinn Fein president said: “Welfare benefits is a key and indispensable element of the Stormont House Agreement which guaranteed benefit protections for current and future applicants in respect of benefits under the control of the Executive.”
In politics there is a large element of subjectivity, but there are also facts and Mr Adams’ claim is demonstrably wrong,
The Stormont House Agreement mentions the word “welfare” 11 times and nowhere does it state that no benefit claimants will lose money – an impossible task if Stormont is not to decimate the budgets of other departments.
The nearest it came to any detail on the welfare changes was the vague statement that there would be “further work to develop and implement flexibilities and top-ups from the block grant as part of a package of measures to address local need”. Yet Sinn Fein not only endorsed that wording, but took considerable political flak to sell the deal right up until Saturday.
In the end, December’s deal was agreed in haste when the Government threatened to wind up the moribund talks process. Now it seems that Sinn Fein is realising how badly exposed its negotiators left it to accusations of a sell-out.