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DUP unites with Sinn Fein to kill off Bill to cut special advisers' pay

By Noel McAdam

Published 14/10/2015

Jim Allister called for cuts in the salaries of special advisors
Jim Allister called for cuts in the salaries of special advisors

The DUP and Sinn Fein have joined forces to kill off proposals to cut the high salaries of Stormont's special advisers.

DUP MLAs made an increasingly rare appearance in the Chamber to quash the attempt to reduce Spad pay from around £90,000 to £75,000.

But the party which has not attended most debates in recent weeks and is boycotting Ministers' Question Times was also supported by Sinn Fein.

The bid by Jim Allister designed also to subject Spads to civil service disciplinary procedures - after Spad Stephen Brimstone was promoted to the First Ministers' Office despite being censured by an Assembly committee report - now falls.

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons argued the TUV leader's lack of consultation and co-operation with other parties showed his move was more an opportunity to grandstand than to provide better government for Northern Ireland

He said his own party's planned reforms "will help to tackle the concerns that many people have about the cost and size of government in Northern Ireland".

Raymond McCartney, of Sinn Fein, however, said that while Mr Allister's proposals might be popular he "is well known as an opponent of these institutions who takes every opportunity to attack it. His motivation is not for the public good."

And he argued Spads, "whatever you think about them", could not be recruited in the normal way because of the rules and strictures by which the civil service operates.

Afterwards Mr Allister went on the offensive and warned "the cabal which controls this house has determined to kill this Bill".

"Sinn Fein has ridden to the rescue and done a deal with the DUP on this. Today revealed the brazen self-interest of the DUP and Sinn Fein/IRA more starkly than perhaps ever before as they formed an unholy alliance."

He said Northern Ireland, the smallest of the devolved regions, would continue to have more Spads (19) than either Wales (8) or Scotland (14), with the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister having as many as the entire Welsh government.

The SDLP suggested the two main Assembly parties had been "united by greed". Dominic Bradley MLA said after the debate: "It was particularly galling to see the DUP benches packed to bursting point during the debate.

"They did not see fit to send these numbers to the SDLP debate on increasing resources for children with autism and special educational needs but dare to question the resources for their advisors and it's all hands to the pumps.

"Today was a low point for the two largest parties. They should reflect on their priorities over the time ahead."

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