SDLP Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon has said the public should not be fooled by Sinn Féin’s spin on Universal Credit.
It comes after further false claims from the party’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy in the Assembly on Monday.
Mr Murphy rejected a bid of £55m from Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to reverse the £20 weekly cut to Universal Credit for the rest of the financial year.
Ms Mallon, in her role as Infrastructure Minister, was the only Executive member to voice support for Ms Hargey’s bid.
Finance Minister Murphy and his Sinn Féin colleagues did a backroom deal with the DUP to approve the October monitoring round.
Ms Mallon said:
“Conor Murphy can continue to peddle his false claims until he’s blue in the face, but it doesn’t change the facts. He had a bid on the table for £55m from his party colleague Deirdre Hargey to reverse the £20 weekly cut to Universal Credit and the money to pay for it, but he refused to do so.
“When this matter came before the Executive I was the only minister to voice my support for the bid to reverse the cut to protect the most vulnerable in our society ahead of one of the toughest winters on record. Despite what Conor Murphy might claim no decision was taken at the Executive but instead exclusively by the Joint First Ministers who decided not to reverse the cut. Remarkably their decision was slipped out in a press release on a Friday afternoon by Conor Murphy.
“Conor Murphy has attempted to portray this issue as a choice between the health service and those in receipt of Universal Credit. Taking this money away from families will have a direct impact on our health service as more of them are pushed into poverty and this effects their physical and mental health.
“This issue isn’t about politics – it’s about people – specifically the around 134,000 people in the North who will be over £1,000 a year worse off as a direct result of Conor Murphy’s decision. Whatever his reasons Conor Murphy should be honest with the public and not try and deflect his decision, which will hit people directly in their pockets, onto the SDLP.”