Northern Ireland welfare bill fails following Sinn Féin and SDLP’s ‘petition of concern’

26 May 2015

A bill drawn up to implement welfare reforms in Northern Ireland has been vetoed by nationalist parties, sending Northern Ireland’s five party coalition into crisis.

The Guardian reports that: ‘The failure to push legislation through the Stormont assembly leaves the Northern Ireland executive with a £600m black hole in its budget’, fuelling unionist fears that the local administration will run out of money in the next few months.

DUP Ministers expressed shock and anger at the outcome, which they claimed reneged on a previous cross-party agreement made in December.

The ‘Petition of Concern’ allows coalition members to block bills which do not have sufficient cross-community support. The BBC reported on Tuesday’s vote which resulted in 58 assembly members voting in favour of the bill, and 39 against.

Martin Mcguiness, deputy first minister of Sinn Féin called on ministers to defend public services, particularly those in health, education and welfare. He stated that, ‘The current crisis has come about solely through the actions of the British government; it could only be resolved by the actions of the British government’.

Mcguiness went on to say that the British government ‘have attacked the most vulnerable in society, slashed the budget for public services and undermined the credibility of these institutions. There is still time for the parties and the British government to deliver a new budget that delivers’.