Housing Benefit (Welfare Supplementary Payment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:15 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Eamonn McCann Eamonn McCann People Before Profit Alliance 1:15 pm, 16th January 2017

I am certainly not supporting the scale it was when it was introduced, but I am not from there. You know an awful lot more about it than I do, and I suspect that Gerry Carroll knows as much as you, as do local people, so I will leave it to them in the interests of democracy. The positions that we take up in relation to the Casement refurbishment are not directly relevant to what we are saying today. People are not disqualified from taking one attitude or the other to the matter before us today, depending on where they stood in relation to Casement Park.

This will be my final point. I was struck by the number of Members who have spoken about their concerns for the most vulnerable. We use the phrase, "this will affect the most vulnerable", all the time. Of course, there is a certain kindness in that. It is difficult to object to the language, except in this sense. These people are referred to all the time as if they are helpless, as if they are people to whom we have to go and bail them out, take them by the hand and lead them towards the promised land. They are regarded as spectators at politics. "We have to help the most vulnerable and not hit them." I do not see them as the most vulnerable. I see the people who you are referring to as the basis for challenging the divided nature of our politics and the divided nature of this House that has given rise to the present hiatus. I hope to be able to say more about this, before this day is out, in relation to two of the other items that are coming before us.

Mainly what we mean when we say "vulnerable people" is people who are being oppressed by poverty. We are talking about people who do not have an adequate means of living. That is what it is. It is poverty that is the problem. It is lack of resources in individual families. That is what is going wrong when we consider that problem. I say to people in that position: yes, listen to the debates here; yes, read all the documents and so on. It is good to understand the detail on these things, but, if you want real change, organise yourselves to demand real change. The only time that we have had progressive change of any substantial nature in this country — in this part of the world — is when people got together and fought together and campaigned together for it.