DUP leader Peter Robinson has blamed Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein’s other southern-based politicians for a failure to advance an agreement on welfare cuts in the Six Counties
Despite the current economic boom across Britain, a swingeing welfare ‘reform’ program has been demanded by British Prime Minister David Cameron who has warned of dire consequences if welfare spending is not reduced. His campaign is bitterly opposed by left-wing groups in Britain and has boosted calls for Scottish independence ahead of a referendum on the issue.
Mr Robinson claimed he had reached agreement to implement Cameron’s welfare cutbacks with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness last year, potentially including the hated ‘bedroom tax’ on social welfare recipients who have unoccupied bedrooms, but that it had been overruled by Sinn Fein’s Dublin-based leadership.
Speaking on BBC’s ‘The View’ on Thursday night, Mr Robinson suggested that powers for social welfare could now be handed back to London without a deal.
He said the agreement in principle had been agreed with McGuinness last May, but the deputy first minister could not sell it to his party colleagues.
“I feel let down,” Mr Robinson said. “We are elected to do a job, we took on that responsibility, that responsibility goes beyond being able to open nice new buildings and hearing the applause from the people for the benefits that might be derived from that.”
Mr Robinson claimed that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had had a very ‘negative’ influence on the party’s team in the Six-County Executive at Stormont.
“I know the slowdown that is taking place in terms of getting decisions taken because the decisions that we might take might cause difficulties for Gerry Adams and his colleagues in the Dail,” he said.
While Adams tweeted that he took Robinson’s complaints “as a compliment”, Deputy First Minister said he took “umbrage” at the idea his authority on the issue had been challenged by others in the party.
He denied there had been a deal. He said that Robinson’s comments “bear no reality” to what really happened and the DUP leader had “crossed the line”.
Meanwhile, Gerry Adams was also the focus of a separate attack by unionists when he was accused of attempting to ‘interfere’ in a PSNI case against republicans Gerry McGeough and Vincent McAnespie, by urging their release.
In March 2007, former Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle member McGeough and fellow Tyrone republican McAnespie were arrested in connection with an IRA attack in 1981. Mr Baxter said shortly after the arrests that Mr Adams had telephoned Downing Street “demanding their release”.
Baxter, a former PSNI chief superintendent and the force’s ‘liaison’ with MI5, told the ‘Northern Ireland Affairs’ committee of the Westminster parliament this week that “there was a culture within the Northern Ireland Office to ensure that republicans were not prosecuted”.
He was speaking in regard to hearings by the committee on the issue of letters issued to some republicans ‘On The Run’ from conflict-related prosecutions (OTRs), which appear to guarantee that they will not be sought by the British police in regard to past events.
Regarding McGeough and McAnespie, Baxter said Adams telephoned Downing Street “demanding their release”. Downing Street then rang the PSNI, he said, “and I got a phone call suggesting I should release them. That, of course, in my mind is attempting to pervert the course of justice and that was conveyed back to headquarters,” he added.
Mr Adams responded by saying “it is a matter of public record that I called for the release of the two men. I also protested to the British government. I did not ask the British government to intervene with the PSNI.
“My protest at that time was entirely appropriate given that the British Government had given commitments to resolve the anomaly of the OTRs. Mr Baxter’s outlandish claim that the NIO was trying to avoid arresting republicans is nonsense and ignores the virtual amnesty provided to the British army and RUC for killing hundreds of citizens.”
In 2011, Gerry McGeough was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his role in the 1981 attack, and under the Good Friday Agreement was released after a term of two years. Mr McAnespie was acquitted of all charges.