Northern Ireland news

Stormont leaders urged to support emergency legislation that would release funds for hard-pressed households

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood. Picture by Hugh Russell

COLUM Eastwood has written to his Stormont counterparts urging them to back emergency legislation that would release funds to combat the cost of living crisis.

The cash allocated by the British government cannot be spent because there is no executive due to the DUP's boycott of the Stormont institutions.

SSE Airtricity last week announced a 42.7 per cent increase in gas prices from July 1, a move which will hit 186,000 customers.

However, SDLP-sponsored legislation aims to amend the law to give a group of ministers acting together the power to implement a new energy costs scheme to help struggling households.

Mr Eastwood has also written to the British and Irish governments outlining the route to implement the new legislation through the assembly, which requires the nomination of a Stormont speaker.

"Uncomfortable as I accept that will be for the DUP leader, it's time to make a choice," the Foyle MP said.

"Jeffrey Donaldson can choose to continue with the politics of protest and boycott, focussed on challenges over which we have no direct control, but we must all be clear that the price of that protest is cold homes, hungry children and parents at their wits end. It is a price we would never consent to."

The SDLP leader said he would meet Stormont's bill clerks this week to advance the proposal.

"This is a challenge that is breaking people in our communities but the solution is very simple, it just needs political will," he said.

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Northern Ireland news