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A family affair with relatives on payroll

Almost half of our MLAs employ at least one relative, it can be revealed.

Several - including DUP MLAs Robin Newton and Mervyn Storey - employ or have employed multiple members of their own family.

According to the latest Assembly register of interest from July, 44 out of our 108 MLAs have a relative on their payroll.

The DUP is the most prolific.

In total 28 out of the 39 DUP MLAs employed relatives, while just one of Sinn Fein's 29 MLAs declared employing a relative.

The Green Party, NI21 and Ukip MLAs, as well as independents John McCallister and Claire Sugden, do not employ any relatives.

Junior minister Jonathan Bell employs his wife as a part-time secretary and researcher, but also employs First Minister Peter Robinson's son Jonathan as office manager, and his wife Angie.

Peter Robinson employs his daughter Rebekah as his office manager. His other son Gareth is the only one of his offspring who does not work for an MLA.

Green Party leader Steven Agnew said all MLAs should have an open competition for staff.

"All my staff have been through an open recruitment process. This is the only way to ensure that I get the best quality staff to help me perform my duties to the highest standard and to deliver to my constituents the best possible service.

"While it is possible that a member of an MLAs family is the best person for the job, they cannot know this if they do not have open competition."

rebecca black

Belfast Telegraph