Belfast Telegraph

MLA pay 'not a stick' in Stormont negotiations, says Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that "pay is not a stick" that can be used to cajole MLAs back into a power-sharing Executive.

The Stormont assembly has not sat since its dissolution following Martin McGuinness's resignation as Deputy First Minister in January.

In a speech to the British Irish Council earlier this month Secretary of Stare for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said that the UK government would have to "consider carefully" the issue of MLAs' pay.

Speaking as part of an interview with BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday News programme, Mrs Foster said that cutting MLAs' pay would not pave the way to a restored executive. 

Mrs Foster said that it was "quite offensive" for people to say that pay reduction would be an incentive.

"I think people out there, whether it's the BBC or anyone else, that think the threat of reducing my pay is in some way going to make an agreement more possible - they don't really understand me and they don't really understand the people that stand for election," she said.

The DUP leader said that intensive talks taking place since the end of August had been "useful" and that it had been beneficial that neither her party or Sinn Fein had given a "running commentary".

On Sinn Fein's rejection of the DUP's olive branch on the issue of Irish language legislation at the end of last month, Mrs Foster said that her party had been "very disappointed" with the speed of the reaction from Sinn Fein.

In their offer the DUP had proposed the immediate restoration of Stormont, with a fixed-period of time specified to legislate for the Irish language.

"We cannot hang out without government for much longer, there are decisions that have to be taken, and if they are not going to be taken by devolved ministers, which of course is what I want, then they will have to be taken by direct-rule ministers," she said.

Mrs Foster was also asked about her party's £1bn confidence and supply arrangement with the Tory government, and the suggestion from her party colleague Sammy Wilson that it could pull out of the deal if the promised money was withheld.

The DUP leader responded that it was "crucial that money comes sooner rather than later" and the more pressing issue was whether it would be distributed through a direct-rule minister or through a devolved minister.

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