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DUP and Sinn Fein reject claim they agreed to keep pay flowing if talks failed

MLAs rack up £1m a month in salary and expenses despite no Assembly sitting since March

By Jonathan Bell

One of the first agreements made in the failed political talks was that MLAs' salaries and expenses should continue to be paid if the process failed, a member of the panel that set pay has claimed.

However, both the DUP and Sinn Fein have rejected the accusation.

With no working Executive, the cost of keeping 90 MLAs in a salary and providing expenses and office costs is over £1million a month, meaning over £5m has been paid out since the Assembly election in March and civil servants doing all of the work.

The talks ultimately ground to a halt on Tuesday after the legal deadline for reaching a resolution passed on Thursday, leaving Secretary of State James Brokenshire with a decision to make on either introducing direct rule, or call an election.

The DUP's Simon Hamilton has said informal talks will continue throughout the summer, but many are not anticipating any deal until at least the autumn, with some saying talks may even continue into 2018.

Alan McQuillan, who was a member of the panel which set MLAs pay and expenses claimed there was early agreement in the talks, on the matter on if the public representatives should continue to be paid if the process broke down.

"I was told by a political source, that they agreed that if the talks failed, pay would continue," he told the BBC's Stephen Nolan.

"I can understand secretary of state wants to keep hope of a deal alive... but it's £1m a month and without a budget, without effective decisions, then things will start to unravel."

The DUP branded the claim as "absolute nonsense".

"Mr McQuillan should produce evidence to support his allegation," said a DUP spokeswoman.

A Sinn Fein party spokesman added: "Alan McQuillan was not a participant in the talks process. Sinn Fein’s only agenda for the talks was the integrity of the institutions and outstanding rights based issues.”

Read more:

Still no deal ... so why pay MLAs £1m a month for doing nothing?

Suzanne Breen: So Stormont could agree on one thing ... they should keep getting their wages 

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