Nichola Mallon wants the process to be fairer and more compassionate for people with the ‘least time to spare’
People facing terminal illness will have no special help to make urgent PIP applications because of the continued limbo at Stormont.
SDLP MLA Nichoal Mallon is trying to help hundreds of people navigate the new PIP rules.
And she had given special attention to those with terminal illnesses and life limiting conditions.
She has repeated called for a review of the definition of the term ‘terminal illness”.
But her plea urging action from the Department of Communities has responded with a resounding ‘no’ blaming the Stormont impasse.
Officials urged to explain how they will protect sick and disabled people from “appalling PIP experiences”
Mrs Mallon said: “I’d written to the Department for Communities to see if, in light of the Secretary of State’s Guidance on Civil Service Decision Making, work might be able to begin on making the PIP application process fairer and more compassionate for those with a terminal illness.
Stormont protest calls for politicians to “get back to work”
“The answer in short – no.
“So those with the least time to spare, the terminally ill applying for PIP are left to wait until whenever the Stormont standoff and stalemate might end.”
Record £37.1million paid in additional Northern Ireland benefits to people who made a call
The letter from the Department of Communities stated: “The statutory framework introducing PIP – including a definition of terminal illness used for the special rules – in Northern Ireland was put in place by the Westminster Government following the approach agreed by the Executive to introduce welfare Reform here and the subsequent legislative consent motion endorsed by the Assembly.
Proposal for Universal Credit claimants to get half price public transport can’t go further because there is no Minister
“In the absence of Ministers the Department is constrained in the actions it can undertake: civil servants do not have the authority to commence work on a major policy review or take legislative decisions to break parity that go beyond the current arrnagemtns as previously agreed by the Executive and Assembly.”
With many thanks to: Belfast Live for the original story.
There is a pattern to the politics of this place; a pattern that tells us that the process is bigger than any one individual.
David Trimble did the heavy lifting of the Good Friday Agreement, but could not carry the Ulster Unionist Party – not all of it and not enough of it.
Ian Paisley took the once unthinkable step into government with Martin McGuinness only to be replaced by Peter Robinson as DUP leader a little over a year later.
Now, there is a focus on Arlene Foster; RHI, that ‘crocodile’ comment, the Assembly Election of 2017 when unionism lost its overall Stormont majority, the negotiation that could not be closed a few weeks ago and the issue of legacy inquest funding.
BAD HEADLINES – TOO MANY OF THEM
Think about a question posed by a senior republican in recent days: “How do you deal with these people in the future?”
It relates specifically to that latest negotiation – the “draft agreement text” of February 9th that Arlene Foster and the DUP negotiators could not deliver.
It is just nonsense to suggest this negotiation was still in a phase of exchanging papers and ideas.
It had moved to fine detail, decision time: “It was down to presentation at this stage,” a talks insider insists.
The visit of Theresa May on February 12th was viewed by Gerry Adams as a clumsy intervention and, by others, as a distraction. May’s visit also forced Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to be present at Stormont.
The deal was not yet ready, but it was very close. Perhaps the NIO was trying to rush and push things – keep the momentum in the process.
By February 9th there was not only a draft agreement text, but draft legislation also.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, writing elsewhere on this website, commented: “The accommodation that has been produced is significant and detailed. The fact that we have been informed that both parties had access to the Office of the Legislative Counsel during the process suggests that the yet unseen legislation contained within the annexes is not simply a wish list but has had legal testing.”
Think also of a legacy agreement on paper. Yes, in writing, and set in the context of “overall agreement”.
Funding for legacy inquests at £7 million a year for 5 years.
The consultation on the legacy structures agreed at Stormont House in 2014 – including the new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) – to begin within two weeks of the formation of a new Executive.
Within that consultation, a controversial question on a statute of limitations for armed forces was to be removed.
These are not ideas; not part of some wish list, but commitments “on-the-record” that, I am assured, can be proven.
The above detail on legacy was worked out in separate discussions involving the NIO and Sinn Fein.
Put the pieces together – this legacy agreement, the draft agreement text and the draft legislation and you see the advanced stage of this negotiation – and the deal the DUP could not sell.
Instead of facing up to the facts, that party has engaged in an unconvincing wordplay; an attempt to downplay the standing of the elements outlined above; and, in this, there is the danger of the process moving beyond Arlene Foster and further away from the devolved space that is Stormont.
A DRAFT AGREEMENT THAT FAILED THE TEST OF IMPLEMENTATION CERTAINTY
Republicans spent the latest phase in a 13 months-long negotiation trying to make this deal – and lowered the bar to make it a much easier jump for the DUP; no certainty about a Bill of Rights, no certainty that the Petition of Concern would be changed; no certainty that marriage equality would be delivered, and accepting DUP proposals to ensure greater stability within any restored political institutions.
Sinn Fein had achieved progress on the Irish language and on legacy matters – but had not delivered the implementation certainty that was set as the test for this negotiation.
The budget of recent days is another step onto the ground of direct rule.
No one should be in any doubt about that.
Is it too late to talk to Arlene? The DUP leader is not going to get a better deal – a better chance than the one just botched.
Yes the ten DUP MPs at Westminster have considerable influence – but for how long?
At some point, they will need Stormont again and need it more than others.
Listen to what Sinn Fein and the SDLP are asking for. A meeting of the British-Irish intergovernmental conference to decide next steps, including agreeing legislation on the issues of language, legacy and marriage equality.
Stormont has become lost in its political limbo. In the here-and-now, there will be no Executive. Arlene Foster will not be First Minister. The NIO has no strategy – hamstrung by the Tory-DUP relationship at Westminster. Brexit is the bigger issue and focus.
What will Dublin and London do next?
For how long can they allow the farce of a pretend parliament?
Soon, they will have to do something.
With many thanks to: Brian Rowan & Eamonn Mallie for the origional story.
Tony Taylor has been held in custody at Maghaberry prison since March 2016 following the revoking of his license by then Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.
He was arrested by the PSNI while on a shopping trip with his family at Crescent Link Retail Park.
Mr Taylor was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1994 after he was seriously injured in a premature explosion in Derry.
He was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
In 2011 he was sentenced to three years in jail for possession of a rifle. He was released in 2014.
There have repeated calls for the now Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, to release Mr Taylor, as concerns continue over his health, and the lack of evidence against him.
A protest rally marking the first anniversary of Mr Taylor’s detention was held outside the PSNI Station on the Strand Road on Saturday, where Mr Taylor’s wife spoke of the difficulties she and her three children had faced over the past year, during which time she said her family have been placed under ‘constant surveillance’ by the PSNI and she has not been allowed to visit her husband in prison.
Mrs Taylor said that the past 12 months had been especially hard for her son, Bliain, who is disabled.
“It is difficult for me to explain how we as a family have been traumatised by Tony’s arrest and detention,” she said.
“His continued absence is having a devastating impact on our family.
“Our son Bliain is now totally dependent on me, and I myself am both physically and emotionally drained.”
“I believe his arrest is linked to his political beliefs and his work on behalf of Republican prisoners, but we don’t accept there is any further reason for him being detained, and no evidence has been produced for this.”
She added that there are also concerns for husband’s health, which she said will continue to deteriorate the longer he remains in jail.
Mrs Taylor also said she now wished to visit Stormont and directly address politicians about her family’s situation.
“I would like to be invited to Stormont so I can explain what we have been going through and how unjust Tony’s treatment has been, because he is the only man currently interned in the country,” she said.
“I want to be sure that Tony’s is not forgotten about by the politicians because Tony’s rights, and our rights, have been repeatedly denied.”
Gary Donnelly, independent councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council, said that local parties now need to step up their efforts in lobbying for Mr Taylor’s release, after the council passed a motion in April of last year.
“The corporate position of Derry City and Strabane District Council is that Tony should be released immediately, so the councillors in there and their political parties should be taking the case forward, and it’s about time that the councillors who signed up to that motion put pressure on the British government,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein councillor Paul Fleming added: “Tony Talyor shouldn’t be in prison, he is being held without being charged, without due process, and we will continue to support Lorraine and her family in getting Tony released.”
THE ongoing political talks will be successful “against the odds”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness told a meeting of his party last night.
He said the devolved institutions “are worth saving and I believe the vast majority of people share that view”. But he said the parties must agree to protect the most vulnerable and ensure Stormont (the big house on the hill) has “a workable budget so that public services are delivered to the standard the public expect and deserve”. The deputy first minister also called on the British government to accept they are part of the negotiations and are “not some kind of neutral arbitrator”. He also hit out at the government’s legislation on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles and said it is “in clear breach of the Stormont House Agreement”.
“The legislation proposed by Theresa Villiers and her cabinet colleagues has more to do with covering up the role of the British state as a central player in the conflict and its collusion with unionist death squads,” he said. He said that the executive had succeeded in blocking the worst of the Conservative government’s cuts, including the introduction of water charges. He said lower student fees, free prescriptions and lower rates bills were “rarely highlighted successes of the executive and local parties working together”. The Mid Ulster assembly member warned that a return to direct rule will result in an “unrestrained onslaught on public services and the most vulnerable in our society”. Ms Villiers repeatedly warned that if the parties cannot agree a deal on welfare reforms, the British government will take back welfare powers as a “last resort”. Mr McGuinness said as well as welfare cuts previously announced, new cuts to tax credits in April will affect 120,000 families in the north.
<strong>With many thanks to: Claire Simpson, for the origional story, The Irish News.
Cuts row becoming a fiasco for Villiers.
ON MONDAY the Department for Social Development publushed a report on the reasons people use food banks.
They concluded low income was the main reason. Astonishing. Who’da thought? There’s you thinking people toddled round to a food bank because they couldn’t get a bus to Tesco. You wonder how much that report cost. The banality of the report’s conclusion was matched perfectly by the response of the DSD minister. Go on, try to think of his name. Draw a blank? How appropriate. Here’s what he said almost in English. “Society – not just government – but collectively we need to take a strong look at why this is happening in the North of Ireland.” Surely his report had just told him? People aren’t paid enough. Another reason given was that people had to wait too long for benifit payment’s to kick in after losing their job or becoming to ill to work. Third, but not mentioned are benefit sanctions when people are refused cash because, for example, it’s deemed they aren’t trying to find a job. The minister was asking the wrong question. It’s not a matter of finding reasons for using food banks. It’s why has the number of food banks in the north increased from two, when our proconsul’s nasty government took over in 2010, to more than a dozen now? The reason is obvious. She’s a member of an increasingly unfair, unjust and inequitable government which on her occasional visits to the north she attempts to justify by mouthing irrelevancies designed for her own voters in one of the wealther, healthier parts of London. To give you an idea how much in common she has with people here you might like to know the average gross weekly earnings in her constituency are £675 compared to £518 for the UK as a whole and about £460 here. The average property price in Chipping Barnet is £370,000. Here it’s £120,000. In her constituency two per cent are on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). The north has the highest claim count of the twelve UK regions. Oh, and there’s one food bank in Barnet.
On the basis of her (Villiers) obvious deep experience of poverty in her constituency our proconsul regularly repeats her demand that the parties here sign up to the welfare cuts she wants to impose and pushed through in the Stormont House agreement as the single most important priority. Let’s repeat here again that the financial annexe in the Stormont House agreement is a bye-ball. The Stormont House agreement dealt with the cuts announced in 2012-13, not 2015. The deal embodied in the agreement won’t approach the cuts announced in July never mind the coming autumn statement and the comprehensive spending review. To give them their due, last December only Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) was talking about arrangements to mitigate the impact of cuts for the next five years. Now there’s a glimmer of hope. Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) and the DUP have been edging closer in meetings over the summer towards the point where senior Sinn Féin people think there’s a chance the DUP might come on board to ask the British for an upgraded package to take account of the draconian proposals our proconsul plans to impose next year. The DUP response to George Osborne’s July cuts showed the first sign of alarm. Sammy Wilson, now happily no longer spouting contempt in the assembly, reacted by worrying that the different benefit caps for London and elsewhere were the first indication of regional variations in benefit. Some DUP people fear that presages regional variations in public sector pay which would hit the party’s middle-class voters. Furthermore Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) hope the DUP’s antennae have twitched at the prospect that our proconsul’s instructions from Whitehall will hit the working poor and not just people on benefit stupidly disdained by the DUP as free loaders. Besides, no secretary of state would want to preside over the collapse of the assembly. It wouldn’t look well on her CV after the fiasco of the West Coast franchise which she awarded in 2012 before being reshuffled. While the report on that flawed, erroneous bidding process cleared our proconsul, her Labour shadow minister said, ‘ministers failed completely in their responsibilities’. A second fiasco would look careless.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeney, The Irish news, for the origionial story.
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SHAME Fein is to tighten its stranglehold on some of the top positions in Ulster politics.
Matin McGuinness is already Deputy First Minister at Stormont. Mairtin O Mueilloir is the current Lord Mayor of Belfast. And this spring another Shinner – Mitchell McLaughlin from Derry – will take over the Speaker’s Chair at the Assembly. Mitchell McLaughlin the MLA for South Antrim, although he’s originally from Derry, he has been serving as Deputy Speaker for some time. DUP veteran Willie Hay is expected to relinquish the prestigious post around April or May. He is also expected to stand down from everyday politics as an MLA. Stormont sources say he will be made a Peer, and take a seat in the House of Lords at West minister.
With many thanks to: Jim McDowell, The Sunday World.
’66 tonnes thrown out in three years’.
2010 (Sept-Dec) 11,800kg
Total = 66,685kg
STORMONT is throwing away more than a tonnes of unused food every month. The assembly has thrown out over 66 tonnes of uneaten food over the past three years, figures obtained by The Irish News can reveal.
The huge amount of unused food (payed for at the taxpayers expence) is the equivalent of more than 16 full-grown African elephants or 148 polar bears. In some years the assembly produced more than three tonnes of waste in a single month. The alarming figures come as the executive continues to urge householders through environmental campaigns to stop wasting food. Leader of the Green Party in the North of Ireland Steven Agnew described the level of food waste as “scandalous”. The North Down MLA for the assembly to tackle the problem in 2014 by introducing new legislation encouraging unused food donations. “It is scandalous that at a time when so many food banks are opening because people cannot afford food, so much edible surplus food is simply being thrown away at the seat of local government,” he said. “The public are not only paying for that food to be bought, cooked and served but they are also paying for the costs of its disposal and I am very concerned that with the amount of food wasted, ttaxpayers money is not being spent wisely.” Not to mention also the public are paying the wages of the government MLA’s that are wasting the food.
Stormont was provided with more than £165,000 worth of food during 2013, according to figures obtained by The Irish News Through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. It started recording its food waste in August 2010, with an average of 1,750kg of uneaten food being disposed of by parliament buildings and the wider Stormont Estate on average since then. In a FOI rresponds the assembly said its current waste management contractor was “not commissioned to recycle food waste” but was “committed to do so”. However, it said commercially produced food waste is recycled. Earlier this year The Irish News revealed hungry MLAs have munched their way through more than £180,000 worth of refreshments at assembly committee meetings over the past six years.
Stormonts committee meetings are supplied with trays of tasty snacks, from tea and coffee to sandwiches and variates of biscuits. In October Tesco sparked a food waste debate after the supermarket giant revealed it had thrown away 28,500 tonnes of food in the first six months of 2013. Mr Agnew said food waste was a major environmental problem which if tackled would be the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road. “While there has been a reduction in the level of food wasted at the assembly over the last couple of years, the fact that so much food is still being thrown away certainly doesn’t set a good example or leave a good impression with the public,” he said. “We need a similar law to the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act in place in the USA to enable organisations to donate excess food without the threat of liability.” A spokesman for the assembly said: “The assembly endeavours to ensure that food waste from all its outlets is minimised.”
With many thanks to: Brendan Hughes, The Irish News.
- Shame Fein unaware of who damaged City Hall toilets (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Belated truth on MRF proves that republican claims were right!!! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Sands ‘offered to suspend Hunger Strike to reach deal’ !!! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- The Cost of Food Wastage (Infographic) (business2community.com)
- Charity hands out 23 TONNES of food in Hartlepool during 2013 – and need even more for next year (hartlepoolmail.co.uk)
- Richard Haass: Irish Tricolour Should Fly Over Stormont. (politics.ie)
- Turning food waste into energy could be a milestone for the circular economy (theguardian.com)
By Damian Herron
Following the recent incident between Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly and a police land rover after the loyalist Tour of the North parade was permitted once again to march through a Nationalist area where it is not wanted, a DUP delegation which included DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds MP lost no time in meeting with North & West Belfast District Commander Chief Supt George Clarke.
Speaking about Gerry Kelly, Nigel Dodds is quoted as saying that he should not “escape the full rigour of the law” and that “it’s important that a message goes out that nobody is above the law…”
Perhaps Nigel Dodds would like to explain exactly what he means by “nobody is above the law”.
In the interest of justice, will he now call for British soldiers, RUC officers and UDR soldiers to be prosecuted and face the “full rigour of the law” for the murder of innocent and unarmed civilians throughout the conflict?
Will he now lead the call in seeking justice for the families of those murdered by the British forces in Derry on Bloody Sunday, the Ballymurphy massacre, the Springhill/Westrock massacre, the Dublin/Monaghan bombings or the many other innocents murdered at the hands of the British state forces?
Perhaps he will show us all that he has ‘moved on’ and no longer represents the typical self-righteous and hypocritical ‘democratic’ unionist politician to be found in Stormont and send a clear and important message to members of the British state forces that as a British soldier, or a former RUC officer or an ex-UDR soldier, you are not “above the law” and those of you who terrorised and murdered Irish citizens on their own streets should face the “full rigour of the law” and serve time in prison for your crimes.
I expect not.