David Ford MLA said: “This reckless decision by the SDLP and Sinn Fein to block the Welfare Bill has put all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement at risk. We now face an immediate impossible budgetary position.
“This is bizarre behaviour by the SDLP who have described themselves as the guardians of the Good Friday Agreement. By agreeing to sign a Petition of Concern with Sinn Féin they are going against all that they have stood for since 1998.
“Those politicians who claim that they are protecting the most vulnerable by opposing this legislation will be harming the very same people by the resultant cuts in vital public services. If we do not resolve this issue and allow the Bill to proceed, then one way or another, the pure Tory form of welfare cuts will be implemented in Northern Ireland without the protections and flexibilities we secured before Christmas.
“It is not possible to overestimate the seriousness of this situation. This is the worst crisis that the Assembly has faced in the past five years. We cannot continue to go around in circles on this issue. The future of Northern Ireland’s economy and political institutions are at stake.”