Belfast Telegraph

Stormont crisis: Overwhelming support for petition to stop salaries if MLAs don't reach deal

By Claire O'Boyle

More than 4,500 people last night signed a petition to stop MLAs' pay if party talks to form an Executive fail.

The petition, set up by Co Antrim father Darren McCluney, followed calls from former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan to suspend politicians' salaries after three months without a functioning government.

In an online poll conducted by this newspaper, 93% of people who took part believed MLAs should have their pay stopped if they failed to restore Stormont.

"Three months is too long," Mr McCluney said. "In my opinion, their pay should be suspended straight away.

"There are organisations right across Northern Ireland depending on politicians to represent us during the Brexit process, and, yet again, Sinn Fein and the DUP are dragging the whole thing out with the usual he said, she said stuff.

"If I thought I had three months to mess about doing nothing but still getting paid, then the motivation wouldn't exactly be massive to get things moving.

"I've never done anything like this before, but clearly I was tapping in to something a lot of people agree with."

Mr McCluney (36) set up the Change.org petition on Monday from his Ballyclare workplace, Diamond Fireworks, as it became clear no deal would be met.

"It's vital for my work and for lots of organisations that Northern Ireland is a strong, working place," he said.

"People are sick of the bickering and blame culture that means nothing gets done.

"It wouldn't be allowed in a normal workplace and it shouldn't be allowed in Stormont either.

"I've included James Brokenshire's email on the petition, so he should get regular updates about how many people have signed up.

"I'm hoping it will hit 10,000 and, once it gets there, I'll make sure it is brought to his attention.

"People here deserve better than having our money thrown away at MLAs who aren't doing their jobs properly."

Signing the petition, Paul Mullan, from Kilrea, Co Londonderry, wrote: "They've done nothing in two years other than bicker, fight amongst themselves and rip the taxpayers out of (millions of pounds)... get them out if they don't want to or aren't capable of running the country. #total wasters."

Karen Hunniford, from Belfast, added: "Why are we continuing to pay their salaries when they've yet to come to an agreement over power-sharing?"

Former Assistant Chief Constable Mr McQuillan, who sat on the panel that agreed pay at Stormont, said: "MLAs' salaries and expenses cost us £13.5m a year - that's about the same as the Renewable Heating Incentive is costing.

"The public want a functioning Executive, but don't want to pay for one that doesn't exist. They don't want to see the politicians who have caused the chaos still getting rewarded handsomely."

MLAs are paid at least £49,000 a year, although ministers and those in other senior roles get more. An additional allowance is paid depending on how far their constituency is from Belfast.

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