By Sinn Fein’s own figures, there is nowhere near enough money set aside to ensure that no one has their benefits cut under the bill which the party yesterday voted through consideration stage in the Assembly.
Just four months ago, Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd claimed that “these cuts would have an huge negative effect on the lives of many people across all communities...with an enormous loss of £58 million to the local economy in Upper Bann”.
And, writing in the Derry Journal that same month, Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty claimed that Londonderry would lose £64 million under the welfare reforms.
According to those figures, it would cost £122 million just to ensure that no benefit claimants in Upper Bann or Londonderry lose any money.
Yet Sinn Fein has said that there will only be £94 million per year (£565m over six years) set aside to mitigate the welfare changes across all of Northern Ireland.
Last August, Sinn Fein’s group leader on Belfast City Council, Jim McVeigh, said: “We know at first-hand how these welfare cuts will impact on real individuals and real families. No matter the cost, we intend to stand firmly against these cuts.”
And, speaking in the Assembly last September – as the party was unveiling a ‘Stop Tory cuts’ billboard campaign – Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey said: “We in Sinn Fein argue that we have a choice...I simply cannot understand why any political party that purports to represent those same communities can advocate imposing those cuts.”
On Tuesday, Fianna Fail accused Sinn Fein of “hypocrisy” for voting through the Welfare Reform Bill at a time when the party is portraying itself as a staunch opponent of austerity in the Republic.
But yesterday Sinn Fein’s Mickey Brady hit back furiously at the party’s southern rival, saying: “Sinn Fein won’t be deflected by Fianna Fail or any other Tory party.
“We will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable and campaign to end austerity North and South.”
And, in a platform in today’s News Letter, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy says: “We have retained anti-poverty measures and neutralised the impact of the bedroom tax and the benefit cap through a system of top-ups and flexibilitas.”