At the NICVA offices along the Duncairn Gardens on Wednesday, an important conference was held to open up debate about the future of welfare reform in Northern Ireland. It was one of those crisp autumn days which one likes to think of as typical of the atmosphere of cool, reasoned thinking. After heated debate over welfare reform and the budget throughout the summer, which seemed to rock the foundations of our devolved political institutions, the conference, titled, “Welfare Reform: The Reality,” created a calmer space outside of the political environment to examine these fraught issues.

It wasn’t lost on the hundreds of people gathered in the room that this conference coincided with the arrival of US envoy Gary Hart, who began meetings with Northern Ireland politicians today in order to help plot a path towards a sustainable resolution on a series of outstanding issues, among which, in addition to the legacy of the Troubles, include welfare and the budget. The talks, a continuation of last years failed Haass-O’Sullivan talks, formed much of the subtext of the day. As some have pointed out already, if the Assembly collapses, welfare reform can be implemented in its entirety, immediately, and without any of the mitigating measures negotiated previously.

Read more at: http://sluggerotoole.com/2014/10/30/the-reality-of-welfare-reform-its-a-horror-show/

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