“Welfare policy is primarily determined at a UK level. Especially with our huge financial subvention from Westminster, the scope for local variation is limited. This is the reality. Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have accepted the Principle of Consent as part of the Good Friday Agreement.
“There is little point in arguing that the current Conservative Government achieved very few votes and no representation in Northern Ireland as they are the legitimate government of the United Kingdom as a whole. Therefore, there is no point in trying to pretend they don’t have a mandate to govern the whole UK, including Northern Ireland.
“The choices facing the Executive and the Assembly are very simple and very stark, either to pass the local variations on welfare reform with modifications and flexibilities or to see the full unabridged GB version deployed over our heads, and to bring some sense and balance to the funding of public services or see services on which the most vulnerable in society depend gutted as public finances collapse in a political vacuum.
“Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein are still to prove that they are capable of governing in a rational manner. Otherwise the stakes are very high, including the potential collapse of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. For two so-called ‘pro-Agreement’ parties, this must be a very sobering prospect.”