Belfast Telegraph

Almost £200k shelled out for Speaker and deputies

By Rebecca Black

Almost £200,000 has been spent on an Assembly Speaker and his two deputies despite the institutions being collapsed.

The DUP's Robin Newton remains in post with an annual salary of £87,000, as well as Principal Deputy Speaker Caitriona Ruane (Sinn Fein) and Deputy Speaker Patsy McGlone (SDLP).

Both posts come with a salary of £55,000.

The total bill would have been even higher but the third Deputy Speaker, the UUP's Danny Kennedy, submitted his resignation in June after losing his Assembly seat.

Earlier this week it emerged that more than half a million pounds has been spent on catering and broadcasting at Stormont over the last 10 months.

More than £300,000 of public money was spent on a broadcasting contract since January despite the fact that neither the Assembly sittings nor committees have been taking place regularly. And more than £200,000 has been spent in the same period to subsidise catering services at Parliament Buildings.

The trio of Speakers were elected to the roles in May 2016 following the Assembly election.

There was another Assembly election in March prompted by the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister. However, the collapse of power-sharing arrangements at Stormont means there has been no opportunity to re-elect the post-holders, or elect others to the positions.

Mr Newton is under pressure to quit his post after it was alleged that he had previously misled the Assembly about his relationship with an organisation that received Stormont funding. He denies any wrongdoing.

The startling figures were uncovered by TUV leader Jim Allister who has asked a number of Assembly Questions to uncover how much has been spent at Stormont during suspension.

Although the institutions are collapsed, a small number of sittings took place at the end of January and one on March 13.

Mr Allister was told in response to his Assembly Question: "As the new Assembly has yet to proceed to conduct the election of a Speaker since the Assembly dissolved for elections on 26 January 2017, the Principal Deputy Speaker, Caitriona Ruane, and Deputy Speaker, Patsy McGlone MLA, continue to hold office, as does the Speaker.

"Danny Kennedy submitted his resignation to the Speaker with effect from 29 June 2017 and therefore he has not held office as Deputy Speaker since that date."

Belfast Telegraph

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