Health minster brands Sinn Fein 'cowards' over welfare reform


Health minister Edwin Poots accused a Sinn Fein MLA of being a "coward" over welfare reform, on 1 July 2014.

Mr Poots said he would not make cuts "to pay for the current refusal of some members of this house to take the necessary decisions in relation to welfare reform".

Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan asked whether the minister would not be better "saving money on following his own ideological campaigns against delivering equality for people as opposed to blaming every mess he's overseen in the health service since he took office three years ago on welfare reform".

The minister challenged Mr Flanagan to "come to this house and say 'we believe that we're better spending this money on welfare than on health'. Stand up and say it and don't be such a coward!"

Megan Fearon of Sinn Fein asked about the cost of reintroducing prescription charges.

Mr Poots said this would depend on how it was done.

The old system would cost a considerable amount as the 11% of prescriptions that had to be charged-for would need to be identified.

The minister said the administration cost for his suggestion of a flat fee with a maximum charge of £25 per patient per year would be very low.

Gregory Campbell of the DUP asked the justice minister when work would begin on the new prison at Magilligan, County Londonderry.

David Ford said that, if the business case was approved by the Department of Finance, the Prison Service hoped to begin work on the construction in 2016.

Dominic Bradley of the SDLP called for legislation to ensure that former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) could be compelled to give evidence on Troubles-related cases.

He referred to the case of Catholic RUC officer, Sgt Joseph Campbell, who was murdered in Cushendall, County Antrim, in 1977.

A recent report by the police ombudsman found that Mr Campbell's murder could have been prevented by senior RUC officers, and that some retired RUC officers refused to cooperate with the ombudsman's investigation.

The justice minister said he had a paper before the Executive that dealt with the matter of former RUC officers but "there is no consensus" and it was therefore unlikely that this would progress.

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