The leaders of the main Churches in Northern Ireland have written to the Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey MLA, and the Chair of the Social Development Committee, Alex Maskey MLA, to seek meetings to discuss the challenges presented by the Welfare Reform Bill and to express their concern about the impact of the continued uncertainty regarding the Bill on the most vulnerable members of society. The Church leaders feel there is a clear need to bring the current debate back to a point where further progress can be made in a calmer atmosphere with a view to finding a solution.
In February 2012, at a public meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Church Leaders called on the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to clarify the implications of the Social Welfare Reform Bill for Northern Ireland. To date, details of the specific measures proposed for Northern Ireland have not been made available for public consultation. In their letter, the Church leaders say that this situation ‘presents a serious obstacle to informed debate in civil society’ and ‘creates fear and anxiety for those who are dependent on welfare payments and now face an uncertain economic future’. They continue, by saying that ‘due to the lack of clear and specific information, it is not possible to make reliable assessments of the impact of the implementation of the proposed measures’.
With concern for the protection of the most vulnerable and the need to ensure that any reforms will bring greater equality and social justice, the Church leaders are appealing to the Minister for Social Development to address this situation as a matter of urgency.
Most Rev Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh (Church of Ireland)
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh (Roman Catholic)
Rt Rev Dr Michael Barry, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Rev Peter Murray, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
Rev Dr Donald Watts, President of the Irish Council of Churches
Rev Dr Donald Watts is available for media interviews. For press and media interview enquiries, please contact Rebecca McConnell on +44 (0) 77 2996 5231.
Rebecca McConnell, Presbyterian Information Services
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Assembly Buildings, Fisherwick Place, Belfast. BT1 6DW
Office: +44 (0) 28 9032 2284
Mobile: +44 (0) 77 2996 5231
Email: [email protected]
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444