07 January 2006

Stormont Assembly members 'may have salaries cut'


07/01/2006 - 12:02:46

Salaries paid to MLAs may be cut off unless progress is made towards restoring devolution by the summer, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said today.

Peter Hain said he may take the move to stop salaries and allowances if no real movement is made towards returning the Stormont Assembly.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said MLAs were getting £32,000 (€46,700) salaries for a job which they will not 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 take is over continued payment of salaries and also allowances,” Mr Hain told BBC Radio Ulster’s Inside Politics programme.

“You have got more being paid in costs, in legitimate costs for staff, for the services they provide, for travel and subsistence and all the rest of it, as well £32,000 (€46,700) salaries for assembly members elected to a job which they won’t take responsibility for doing.”

In his New Year’s message, Mr Hain had warned there would be little point in having elections to an Assembly in 2007 if there was no meaningful devolution. He said unionists needed to know republicans were serious about their commitments to totally lawful means.

But he also acknowledged that nationalists wanted to know unionists were serious about sharing power on a genuinely equitable basis.

The Irish and British governments’ bid to revive devolution has been complicated in recent weeks by the dramatic collapse of a spying case against three men accused of intelligence gathering for republicans at Stormont in 2002 and the revelation that one of them, Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson, was working as an agent for the British intelligence services within the party.

After the power-sharing executive collapsed in October 2002, the House of Lords agreed Assembly members would continue to receive a reduced salary of almost £32,000 (€46,700) as they held representative duties.

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