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DUP's missing ministers vow to return their pay

By Claire Williamson

Published 08/10/2015

Stormont's 'absent' DUP ministers will continue to be paid from the public purse - but have pledged to return the money.

Questions have been raised over the payments to the so-called 'in-out' DUP ministers as the party continues to undergo a cycle of renominating ministers within a week, only for them to resign again in a bid to stop the roles being taken by other parties.

Under the rules of Stormont's coalition Executive, if a minister is not renominated within seven days, the position is allocated to another party.

However, the DUP has insisted ministers "will not benefit financially during this period and will not keep any ministerial salary they might receive".

It comes as Stormont is submerged in a political crisis after the PSNI said members of the IRA were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in the Short Strand in August.

Subsequently, DUP leader Peter Robinson resigned all ministers except Arlene Foster, who is continuing as Finance Minister.

Mr Robinson stepped aside as First Minister, with Mrs Foster acting up in the interim.

The move came as the DUP sought two unsuccessful bids to have the Assembly adjourned to focus on crunch talks.

The absent ministers - and in particular Health Minister Simon Hamilton - have come under increasing pressure from other parties to return to their roles permanently.

Mr Hamilton has been accused of having "abdicated all sense of responsibility" but this week in the Belfast Telegraph he strongly attacking as "nonsense" claims that his absence as Health Minister was harming patient care.

The Assembly has said there is no legislation to stop the ministers being paid their salary.

In addition, a spokeswoman said there was no provision for reduction or removal of a salary where a minister "does not resign but steps aside and assigns the duties to another minister".

This suggests that Mr Robinson will still be receiving his First Minister's salary.

The Assembly spokeswoman also outlined that Mrs Foster, who remains as Minister for Finance and Personnel, "does not receive any additional ministerial salary" as acting First Minister.

An Assembly spokeswoman said: "A Northern Ireland Executive minister is currently paid an annual salary of £86k."

See DebateNI, Pages 22-23

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