Continue to speak up for vulnerable in society, Sinn Féin tells church leadersSaturday, April 28th, 2012
The Chairman of Northern Ireland’s Social Development Committee has encouraged church leaders to continue to speak up for, “the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey was speaking yesterday after the four church leaders met a delegation from Sinn Féin to discuss the implications of possible welfare reforms in Northern Ireland.
The meeting came just days after the publication of two academic reports on the potential effects of Stormont’s Welfare Reform Bill (that replicates austerity measures being introduced in Britain) and will see benefits capped at £26,000 (about €32,000) for working age households, in a bid to stop people receiving more on welfare than they can earn in a job.
On Wednesday Alex Maskey, who was one of the Sinn Féin delegates to meet the church leaders yesterday, said the reports are an, “important contribution to the consideration on how welfare reform will impact on children.”
The Chairman of the Social Development Committee said he knows the pressures many vulnerable families were under, and how the Welfare Reform Bill has, “the potential to exacerbate the difficulties they currently face.”
"We are committed therefore to working with stakeholders and the Department for Social Development to explore how to mitigate any adverse impact arising from this Bill and protect, in particular, the most vulnerable members of our society."
Yesterday, he and two other Sinn Féin MLAs, Conor Murphy MP, and Mickey Brady, spent two hours in Armagh discussing welfare measures with Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Alan Harper, Methodist President Rev Ian Henderson and Presbyterian Moderator Dr Ivan Patterson.
During the two-hour meeting the current time frame for legislation was discussed, together with ways in which the Northern Ireland Assembly could maximise positive benefits while at the same time mitigating the negative effects that any such reforms will bring about particularly as it may affect children in poverty.
“We have already shown our concern over welfare reform and its potential impact on family life,” said Archbishop Harper, who chaired the meeting. “Today’s meeting was part of our ongoing interest and engagement with this important issue.”
Before Christmas, the church leaders travelled to London and met with Lord Freud and the Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland. More recently in February, they hosted a public debate in Assembly Buildings Belfast, involving the Secretary of State Owen Paterson and Minister McCausland in front of an invited audience representative of interested community groups.
“We very much appreciate the interest that the church leaders have taken in welfare reform,” commented Alex Maskey MLA yesterday.
“Today was an opportunity to discuss issues of common concern and encourage the church leaders to continue their involvement in speaking up for the most vulnerable people in our society.”
by Susan Gately
Picture: l to r Alex Maskey MLA, Presbyterian Moderator Dr Ivan Patterson, Archbishop Alan Harper, Mickey Brady MLA and Cardinal Seán Brady, Methodist President Rev Ian Henderson and Conor Murphy MP MLA.