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Platform - Conor Murphy: Confirmation £600 payment will not come to people in NI before Christmas is 'devastating news for workers and families'

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy. Picture by Mal McCann

CONFIRMATION that the £600 payment to help with energy bills will not come to people in the north before Christmas is devastating news for workers and families who are really struggling.

It is even more cruel and disgraceful because people could and should have had the money months ago and not be left worrying about getting through a cold winter.

The Executive received the first funding to make the payment back in February. But the collapse of the Executive that same month by the DUP meant that the money could not be allocated.

To cover up their blocking of the payment, the DUP repeatedly claimed that this scheme should always have been delivered by the British government, regardless of whether the Executive was in place.

They knew full well that Energy is a devolved matter, and that the British government provided the Executive with the funding because we are best placed to make the payment.

Eventually, at a meeting in August which I attended along with the DUP economy minister, the British government agreed to take responsibility for delivering the scheme.

They did so reluctantly, given the continued absence of an Executive. And they made it clear that the payment might not be made until after Christmas, despite the fact people in Britain were starting to receive the money in November.

I was astounded that immediately after this meeting that the DUP claimed then and promised again and again that people could expect their payment in November. This took the pressure off the DUP, but it had no basis in fact, it was untrue and gave people who are struggling false hope.

That was cruel and heartless.

Now the British government has confirmed that payments won't start until after Christmas.

This has further exposed the impact that the DUP's boycott is having on people who are now facing a long and cold winter with no support to pay their bills.

The DUP's boycott of the Executive is having absolutely no impact over the negotiation between the British government and the EU. It is only serving to punish ordinary people. Instead of resorting to a desperate stream of untruths to justify its boycott, the

DUP should join together with the parties in the Executive so that we can deliver for workers, families and businesses struggling with the inflation crisis.

:: Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin MLA is a former Stormont finance minister

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