It was Sinn Féin who ensured neediest have not been penalised
Fionnuala O Connor (May 14) stated that the meticulous Sam McBride reported in the News Letter that welfare cuts had hit Sinn Féin and others on the doorsteps during the local government election campaign. Rightly so given that the DUP were firm supporters of Welfare Reform from the off and the SDLP were first to put Welfare Reform before the assembly courtesy of their then DSD minister Margaret Ritchie in 2007. A quick reminder of the her proposals were the move from incapacity benefit to employment and support allowance and the controversial work capability assessment. She also wanted to fast-track the private rented sector version of the bedroom tax – meaning that housing benefit would no longer cover most rents in the private sector and any shortcomings would have to be topped up by the tenant.
Given that Colum Eastwood boasted that the SDLP in Derry made gains at the expense of Sinn Féin given (according to him) the latter’s support for the Tory bedroom tax, it indicates that a brass neck is a handy accessory to have on the campaign trail.
Sam McBride is further quoted on the £500-plus mitigation package to offset Welfare Reform that was negotiated by Sinn Féin. This is due to run out next year. He is quoted as saying welfare claimants will unlikely receive any additional funds to make up the changes Sinn Féin allowed to go through. That claim is disingenuous. The Tory Party and British Treasury drove Welfare Reform. Even after it was implemented in England, Scotland and Wales it was resisted in the north. That provoked the Treasury to inflict fines on the block grant in line with what the perceived welfare savings would be. There was the threat of further escalating the fines into hundreds of millions of pounds that would have decimated the block grant and the subsequent knock-on effect for the funding of health, education and other devolved departments. The collapse of the assembly in 2015 would have seen the end of the mitigation package, before it got off the ground.
As controllers of the block grant the British Treasury gets to dictate financial controls in the north. They can simply circumvent an assembly and deduct money at source and starve departments of cash. That is what they did.
The welfare reforms were not ‘allowed’ to go through, they were forced through.
It was Sinn Féin that ensured the neediest have not been penalised since 2015.
No difference between SDLP and Alliance party
As an ex-SDLP voter who like thousands of nationalists now votes for Sinn Féin, can I explain to the hierarchy of the SDLP that one of the main reasons is because they are seen as no different from the Alliance party. They do not seem to get the idea that they are supposed to be a nationalist party.
This brings me on to the topic of three Irish News columnists, Patrick Murphy, Fionnuala O Connor and Tom Kelly. Each of these three folks seems to be a cheerleader of the SDLP and everything wrong in this world is due to Sinn Féin. This is the typical spell of Fianna Fáil. Well guess what folks, northern nationalists live in these six counties or as Tom would have it this part of the UK. Indeed after Brexit, Tom Kelly wrote that he had told his unionist friends that due to Brexit he would like a united Ireland. So, am I to believe that before Brexit he was more than happy to be in Norn Ireland and be British?
This is a man who held an important position within the SDLP and he was not in favour of a united Ireland. Do you see what the problem is folks? By the way one of those aforementioned folks would tell you that the local elections were a blow to Sinn Féin and a gee up to the SDLP or as Tom says “fresh young faces”.
Well, according to the figures Sinn Féin vote was down 0.8 per cent but remained on the same number of seats whereas the SDLP vote was down 1.6 per cent and lost seven seats.
Indeed, here in Newry, Tom’s local town, Sinn Féin increased their seat tally from 14 to 16 (+2) whereas the SDLP fell from 14 to 11 (-3).
Newry, Co Down
Shoots of hope
I’ve watched and listened as commentators line up to pour cold water on the opinions of Seamus Mallon, some of it ice cold. I would, however, offer this opinion, from a purely Christian perspective. Could Seamus be speaking reflectively, as any 83-year-old equipped and well entitled to do, but also from first-hand experience of our troubled past and his concern about our uncertain future. His particular blueprint may not be the perfect one but it contains all of the considerations, pitfalls, checks and balances which will need to be taken into account, whilst pondering a peaceful solution to our future.
Its most important message is glaring and probably why it has shipped so much flack. It’s daring to suggest that, in the spirit of Luke and Matthew, we should ‘Love our enemy, do good to those who hurt us and repay wrongdoing with charity and generosity’. In other words folks we should put aside 100 years of hurt, 70 years of misrule and any other hurt we have experienced and, in the spirit of Christianity, join with our neighbours in finding a collective solution. An enforced 50% plus 1 new Ireland doesn’t seem like the ideal starting point.
Is Seamus saying anything different? I think not. DUP and Sinn Féin will always be the greater part of the problem due to intransigence. That collective mindset will never provide a peaceful solution. Seamus’s ideas provide some shoots of hope.
Randalstown, Co Antrim
Truth should be truth for all
After reading Raymond McCord’s letter (May 21) I agree with him. That unless the organisers of Sunday’s Time for Truth march invite members of the unionist community the general public should boycott it. Mr McCord has held many events in the past on collusion, he invites all political parties in Northern Ireland, plus the republic of Ireland – family members from the Omagh bombing, the Ballymurphy Massacre, Enniskillen bombing, Sean Graham Bookies’ shooting, the list goes on. Mr McCord’s son, Raymond jnr, was murdered in November 1997. The then police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan found collusion between his son’s killers and their special branch handlers and to this day Mr McCord continues to fight for the truth and justice for all the families murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF – both Catholic and Protestant. Mr McCord would never hold an event without inviting both communities. The Time for Truth, should be a truth or all.
Pick it up
I have just returned from the hallowed ground that is McDonnell/Doherty Park, home to St Teresa’s GAC, having watched an under-12 hurling blitz that was a credit to the mentors, parents, organisers and, most of all, players from St Teresa’s, Davitt’s, Gort na Mona and Loch Mor.
What a shame then, that some selfish, lazy, disrespectful local – who, undoubtedly would know we are a club steeped in the local community providing playing facilities for children, adults; male and female – allows their dog to foul our pitches.