North crisis as Assembly votes down welfare deal

Northern Ireland’s faltering power-sharing Executive has lurched towards another crisis after the Assembly voted down a bid to implement welfare reforms in the region.

The fall of the already long-delayed proposed legislation, prompted by Sinn Féin and SDLP opposition, leaves the stumbling administration facing a budgetary black hole estimated at around £600m (€848m).

Unless political leaders can agree a lasting deal on welfare in the coming days and weeks, there is the very real prospect of a senior civil servant stepping in to take over departmental spends later in the summer, under tight financial constraints.

Such a scenario, where the parties are effectively relieved of spending responsibility, would undoubtedly increase the chances of one of the main partners in the Executive — the DUP and Sinn Féin — walking away and collapsing the institutions.

In the absence of any local accommodation, the Democratic Unionists have suggested another alternative option — namely, the UK government stepping in to implement welfare legislation.

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