A Conservative spokesman has described the Archbishop of Canterbury as “ill-informed”, after the Anglican Church leader claimed Northern Ireland should be a ‘special case’, when it comes to welfare reform.  Frank Shivers said that Justin Welby’s comments were “an unhelpful contribution at a sensitive time politically” and “ignore the damaging effects of welfare dependency on communities and the local economy”.

“The Archbishop jetted into Belfast to make these comments about Northern Ireland comprising a ‘special case’, but he’s been attacking welfare reform, UK-wide, for a number of years”, Frank observed.  “In actuality, we particularly need reform in this part of the country, precisely because the benefits culture has such a firm grip on our society.  I’m not sure why a senior churchman would wish future generations of Northern Irish people to be consigned to dependency, with the low incomes, health problems and damaged communities which accompany it.”

“Northern Ireland is treated as a ‘special case’ in many circumstances, which is right, because of the particular challenges we face thanks to our troubled past.  Public spending here is 23% higher than the national average.  We want to build a prosperous economy, with as many people as possible going out to work to earn money for their families, which means building the private sector and reforming welfare.  Almost 100,000 of the most vulnerable people here are actually worse off because reform hasn’t been implemented.  They will understandably be particularly disappointed at the Archbishop’s comments.”