Belfast Telegraph

Call for Sinn Fein expenses probe

Northern Ireland's justice minister has called for an independent investigation into how Martin McGuinness and other devolved assembly members use office expenses.

Sinn Fein reportedly pays taxpayers' money it receives to rent premises to three different cultural societies.

The party has said the money is going to a not-for-profit organisation which provides resources for local community services.

BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme examined the issue.

Stormont justice minister David Ford said: "I believe we need a full and independent investigation into these claims, carried out in a way that prevents any political party from interfering or preventing the facts from coming out.

"This is public money, and the public have a right to know how it is being spent."

Mr McGuinness is Deputy First Minister and helps lead the power-sharing Executive at Stormont with First Minister Peter Robinson. He represents Mid Ulster.

Sinn Fein Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy told the BBC: "I think it's a very good use of public money, because what has happened here is that Sinn Fein are renting accommodation for offices within a building that also serves the local community, provides resources for the local community and it's a not-for-profit organisation that the money's going to.

"The money's used to actually deliver services."

Other Northern Ireland parties have also been queried about their use of expenses. But this is not the first time Sinn Fein's spending of public money on properties has been questioned.

Mr McGuinness stepped down as Mid Ulster MP to concentrate on Stormont. Five years ago he robustly defended his fellow MPs over their use of expenses.

Then it was revealed that Mr McGuinness, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and three other MPs claimed more than £400,000 on a pair of London flats despite not taking their Westminster seats.

Sinn Fein representatives have said they received the average "industrial wage" and the rest of their salaries were funnelled back to the party.

It has consistently been among the wealthiest parties in Northern Ireland in recent years and the highest spenders, the Electoral Commission has previously revealed.

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