TUV's Allister vows to expose Stormont 'greed and squander'
"Greed and squander" at Stormont must be exposed in the run-up to the next Assembly election, TUV leader Jim Allister has pledged.
The Assembly's self-styled one-man 'opposition' promised to focus on the money being spent on special advisers and sustenance for MLAs as a central theme in the party's campaign.
Addressing his party's annual conference at the weekend, he highlighted Stormont departments spending £1.8m - £35,000 a week - on hospitality and the more than £100,000 bill for "coffee, scones and fruit platters" for MLAs at committees as well as free mints in the main Assembly chamber.
Executive Ministers have 161 "spin doctors" costing over £5m every year, while the Executive also forks out £400,000 of public money for official photographs "so that you can admire their every move.
"Keeping their eyes on the ball rather than the camera would suit some of our Ministers better," he quipped.
The North Antrim MLA also pointed to the example of the DUP's Emma Pengelly, given a "golden handshake" of £46,000 when she left her £91,000 special adviser post and "weeks later" becoming a Junior minister on £80,000 a year.
"In the upcoming election, TUV will be making this greed and squander an issue. But above all we will lay out our positive vision of voluntary coalition and vibrant opposition as the path to durable devolution. That is the fresh start we need," he added.
The main thread of Mr Allister's speech, however, was a tirade against his main electoral rivals, and former party, the DUP, saying that the legacy of outgoing leader and First Minister Peter Robinson is "the IRA in Government".
He said the 'Fresh Start' deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP was a "trade-off of climbdowns" with Sinn Fein climbing down on welfare but "much more shamefully" the DUP climbing down over the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
It was "little wonder", he went on, that Sinn Fein, unlike Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and Alliance, took part in an Assembly standing ovation for Mr Robinson at his last Question Time session.
"Didn't he let them keep their army council in government? They have reason to be grateful to him. Peter Robinson's legacy is the IRA in government."
Mr Allister suggested that after he stands down, a peerage for Mr Robinson will inevitably follow and said perhaps the title "Lord Trimble-esque" would be suitable.
But he also added: "DUP made careers and power out of pulverising David Trimble over his weakness. In contrast, they boasted of their virility in putting manners on republicanism."
The DUP had also been outmanoeuvred by Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt - "can it be more humiliating than that ?" - who had done the "right thing" in pulling his sole Minister, Danny Kennedy, out of the Executive.
But he said he hoped that it was not a ploy by the UUP to see if they can gain two seats on the Executive after the next election - and also called on the SDLP to "rise up and stop being a doormat for other parties on the Executive".
Mr Allister told the gathering that he wanted to ask all voters a single question: 'Are you happy with what you have got ?'
And Mr Allister made it clear that he is hoping to revive the 100,000 votes gained by him and the former Ukip councillor Henry Reilly, who has now joined the TUV after being expelled from his former party.