Belfast Telegraph

Court of public opinion demands suspension of MLAs' pay packets

By Allan Preston

There was little support on the streets of Belfast yesterday for MLAs keeping their £49,000 pay packet without an agreement in place at Stormont.

While most favoured cutting their salaries immediately, a small number said they would allow a few extra weeks for the politicians to resolve their differences.

"Aren't they lucky?" asked Marion Melvin (60), from Newtownabbey. "To set an example to the rest of the country, they should refuse to take their pay.

"I wasn't surprised there was no agreement. We're up against a brick wall. There just doesn't seem to be any resolve."

But Vivian Davidson (63), from Antrim, said she believed cutting pay would make no difference.

"They should be getting nothing," she added. "Even if they took the money away, it wouldn't matter - they don't even seem to want to agree.

"The deadline passed, but I think that's just the way they wanted it. They probably do want another election.

"I'm looking for work myself. I'll go and do their job for £49,000."

Retail workers and friends Mairead O'Neill (19) and Stacey Murdock (30), from the Markets area, were similarly scathing.

"We work 48 hours a week and earn every penny," said Stacey. "It is a bit ridiculous they're getting paid £49,000 a year and can't agree. Stopping their pay tomorrow would definitely help."

Mairead added: "If I was handed it, I would take it, but it's politics. They need to agree. They should threaten them with no pay and then they'll get an agreement sorted. If we refused to do our job, then we wouldn't get our money."

Joe Quirk (80), from Andersonstown, also attacked the deadlock.

"I worked in the building game - if you didn't work, it was bye-bye," he said.

"The agreement would definitely come in quicker if the pay was cut tomorrow.

"I didn't expect agreement. The whole thing is about Arlene Foster. She won't agree to step aside for even two weeks. She's trying to save face, saying, 'See how strong I am?' And doing nothing else."

Retail worker Andy Black (24), also from the city, said MLAs' pay should be ended immediately and stressed he was sick of "dinosaur politics".

"There's people who aren't working and could do with a job," he added. "MLAs' pocket change is probably the same as dole money. I don't really follow politics, but I think we need change and more equality. Gay marriage should be legal here, for example, and I don't see why this country should be so backwards. It's just dinosaur politics."

Retired Trudy Hannigan (72) said she would give MLAs until Easter to agree.

"I'm hoping they will do something soon, but I'm not optimistic," she admitted. "I just hope we don't have to go back to direct rule. I would give them a bit more time, maybe to Easter."

Belfast chef David Creighton (51) said: "If they cut off their wages, they would soon get themselves into gear.

"If people in any other trade refused to work, they wouldn't get their wages. It's a pantomime and everybody knows it."

Retired English and French teacher Mary Kelly (78), from Belfast, added: "They shouldn't get it, it's a scandal. I wouldn't give them any more time because it's all a load of nonsense. Don't start me.

"They shouldn't be paid if they're not working. If the rest of us didn't work, we wouldn't get anything."

But Fashion student Owen McCleery (19), from Glengormley, wanted more time for negotiations.

"I was disappointed they didn't reach a deal," he said. "We're going round in circles with no outcome.

"I think there should be a bit more time before they stop their pay, but there needs to be a final deadline.

"I'm actually thinking of going away after I graduate. With no agreement I don't see a very steady future here."

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