Thursday, 15 October 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
When the pandemic unemployment payment was introduced by the previous Government it was only supposed to last for 12 weeks. Obviously, we have learned since then that this pandemic is going to be with us for much longer than we thought. To make sure that we could extend it well into next year, if we have to, we had to link it to wages. That was done so that we could continue to support people's incomes. These are the types of choices Governments must make and they are not easy choices at times. When I hear the Deputy speak I often feel he speaks as though his party has no experience of government on this island. There is a Sinn Féin Minister for Finance North of the Border in the Six Counties, as the Deputy describes it. There is also a Sinn Féin Minister with responsibility for welfare. It is a devolved matter. The income support being provided to people north of the Border is about £100 sterling per week under universal credit, which is much less than it is here. Part-time workers, rather than getting full income replacement, get only two thirds of their income. I appreciate Sinn Féin does not control the chequebook, but it has autonomy and it could take money from other areas and put it into an increase in the universal credit.
However, taking everything into account and operating in the limitations that exist, Sinn Féin decided not to.