Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Copeland: maverick who said no to cash

Michael Copeland

Michael Copeland has long been a maverick in a party where lack of conformity can cost your membership.

Just ask ex-Ulster Unionists David McNarry, Lord Maginnis or more recently Basil McCrea and John McCallister.

Copeland is a mainstay of the party's dwindling Assembly team. Yet he does not fit the UUP template to the extent of failing to vote for the Good Friday Agreement which is arguably the party's greatest achievement.

Copeland underlined his individuality by voting in favour of same-sex marriage and is now breaking ranks again over MLA pay.

The East Belfast MLA is a key player on the Social Development Committee and has been heavily involved in recent months in the outworking of the national welfare reforms.

Which is why, in part, he insists he cannot "in all conscience" accept the £5,000 pay increase. Yet he has still to formally refuse it, explaining to the Belfast Telegraph that he has a number of issues to sort out in relation to taxation and national insurance.

Last year, he did not claim his full Office Cost Allowance and said "people who have moved from England, Wales and Scotland have told me that they found me far more accessible than elected representatives at home where people like me were far harder to get in contact with. That can only come by the application of resource."

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