07 January 2006

Row over MLA's payment 'threats'


The power-sharing executive has been suspended since 2002

The NI secretary has been criticised for saying MLAs' payments may be stopped if no progress is made towards restoring devolution by the summer.

Peter Hain said he may halt salaries and allowances if there is no movement.

Alliance leader David Ford said it was a "cheap shot" whilst SDLP leader Mark Durkan called it a "flaky threat".

Ian Paisley Jnr, DUP, said unionists had "no appetite" to share power with republicans. Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said the suspension was "not tenable".

Last month, Mr Hain said real movement was needed if assembly elections due in 2007 "are to have any meaning".

However, in an interview for BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme on Saturday, he said he may go even further.

Mr Hain said assembly members were getting "£32,000 salaries... to do a job which they won't take responsibility for doing".

"I'm not giving a particular month, but I am saying that if we haven't seen progress by the summer, the first decision I'm going to have to make is over continued payment of salaries and also allowances," he said.

Mr Hain said assembly members must take responsibility

David Ford refuted the criticism saying: "For the secretary of state to talk about MLAs 'refusing' to do the job for which they were elected is blatantly untrue.

"Alliance MLAs work to represent their constituents. We have attended every meeting to which ministers have invited us - and many more have been requested.

"We have put forward constructive and positive suggestions for getting the assembly up and running."

Mr Durkan said: "The SDLP don't need threats, lectures or hectoring from Peter Hain or anybody else.

"A clear sense of purpose and direction from the two governments would go a lot further than flaky threats from the secretary of state.

"The two governments should be putting it up to all the parties that the institutions will be restored, and parties will than have the opportunity and responsibility to show what they are up for."

Ian Paisley, jnr, said his party had put a number of proposals to the government to advance political development.


"There is no appetite within the unionist community for a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein and the DUP," he said.

"Lets face the reality, Sinn Fein are not ready for democracy because they have proved themselves to eschew every democratic principle in the book."

Gerry Adams said his party had worked with both governments to try to get the political institutions revived.

"You can't have political institutions voted for by people on both states in this island being kept indefinitely in mothballs," he said.

"It is just not tenable that you have three years of suspension of what almost amounts to a farce. Either we have working institutions or we don't."

Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive collapsed in October 2002 following the arrests of three men over "Stormontgate".

In December 2003, the House of Lords agreed that assembly members would continue to receive a reduced salary of £31,817 a year as they had "representative" duties and constituency offices to run.

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