DUP MPs Shannon and Paisley combined expenses bill almost tops £500,000
Pair have highest claims in the whole of the UK, says report by Parliamentary watchdog
Two DUP MPs had the highest expenses bill in the whole of the UK, it has been revealed.
Between them, Jim Shannon and Ian Paisley claimed almost £500,000.
Mr Shannon had the largest expenses, totalling more than £260,000. Mr Paisley submitted a claim for £227,000.
They were among just five MPs who received more than £200,000 in allowances in the last year.
Even when travel costs were excluded - these would be higher for Northern Ireland MPs - Mr Shannon and Mr Paisley still had the highest claims.
In total, Northern Ireland's 18 MPs claimed expenses totalling £3,115,161. Most of the money went on staff costs, travel and accommodation.
The details were published yesterday by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
The body was set up to administer MPs' pay and allowances following the 2009 expenses scandal.
In total, the UK's 650 MPs claimed £105,884,000 in expenses in the 12 months to April - nearly £3m up on the previous year.
The highest claim was submitted by Mr Shannon, the DUP MP for Strangford.
His £264,505 claim included £161,327 on staffing, £58,980 on travel and £32,135 on office costs.
Mr Paisley, MP for North Antrim since 2010, claimed £227,021. Again, the biggest expense was staffing (£137,769), with £32,934 spent on travel and £31,388 on accommodation.
The Belfast Telegraph approached the DUP to seek an explanation for the high expenses claims from Mr Shannon and Mr Paisley.
However, the DUP did not respond to our inquiries.
The latest release of MPs' expenses covers the 2014/15 financial year, and thus includes MPs who lost their seat at May's general election.
Former East Belfast MP Naomi Long claimed £191,619, while William McCrea, ousted in South Antrim, claimed £199,146.
Five Sinn Fein MPs received a combined £705,869 - despite not taking their seats in Parliament.
Mid-Ulster MP Francie Molloy claimed £154,667, West Belfast MP Paul Maskey received £144,453 and Conor Murphy's total was £132,148.
Michelle Gildernew, who lost her seat in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, claimed £133,303.
West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, who claimed £141,295, defended Sinn Fein's expenses bill.
"Sinn Fein receive expenses, as do all other parties, for work carried out by Westminster representatives," he said.
"This money is used to deliver a first-class service for our constituents as we lobby and meet with other groups in Britain in terms of ending partition, working against welfare cuts and developing the economy locally.
"There are also a number of other allowances which are denied to Sinn Fein including £100,000 in annual Policy Development Grants, which is then distributed among our political opponents in the SDLP, UUP and DUP.
"We make it very clear at elections that we will not take our seats at election time. If anything, Sinn Fein MPs are discriminated against as they do not receive their salaries from Westminster."
IPSA chief executive Marcial Boo said: "As the regulator of the public funds that go to MPs, IPSA ensures that taxpayers' money is used transparently, and that MPs are appropriately resourced to carry out their parliamentary functions.
"Our regular publications include every single penny claimed by MPs, so that taxpayers and voters can see for themselves how their money is spent and gain assurance that IPSA is scrutinising MPs' expenditure on their behalf."