Belfast Telegraph

Government to 'decide shortly' on salaries of MLAs: Karen Bradley

Northern Ireland's Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said the Government will "decide shortly" on the salaries of MLAs.

Mrs Bradley was speaking in the House of Commons about the breakdown of talks to reestablish the Stormont executive.

Prior to the collapse on February 14, a deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP had appeared imminent, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May visiting Stormont on Monday February 12. 

In her statement Mrs Bradley said it was "right that we consider the issue of salaries for Assembly Members".

"At the end of last year my Right Honourable Friend for Old Bexley and Sidcup (former Secretary of State James Brokenshire) received recommendations on this from Mr Trevor Reaney, a former Clerk of the Assembly," Mrs Bradley said.

"The Government will need to decide shortly on the next steps.

"I acknowledge the public concern that while a number of Assembly members continue to carry out constituency and representative functions, current salaries are maintained while the Assembly is not meeting."

The Secretary of State said she intended "to take steps to provide clarity on the budget".

Pressure has been mounted on Mrs Bradley by the DUP to take further steps, to appoint ministers and take decision on schools and hospitals.

It is 13 months since powersharing collapsed at Stormont in a row over a botched green energy scheme.

Mrs Bradley said there was the potential for a fresh election in Northern Ireland, and declined to immediately reimpose direct rule.

Responding to the speech in the Commons, the DUP's Nigel Dodds said it was a "dereliction of duty” to continue without a spending plan or ministers to make decisions.

Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said Mrs Bradley had "failed to progress those issues which the British Government is directly responsible for" - a reference to issues at the centre of last week's draft agreement.

"They must release the legacy inquest funding immediately and issue the consultation on the legacy mechanisms," Mrs O'Neill said.

“The fact that the DUP failed to close on last week’s draft agreement and chose to collapse the process does not abdicate the British Government from their responsibilities."

Michelle O'Neill is set to meet with the British Prime Minister on Wednesday, and said she would be raising this issue.

UUP leader Robin Swann said the Secretary of State's statement had been "underwhelming".

“The fact that the Secretary of State stated that the parties 'reached a balanced and fair accommodation on the difficult issues of language and culture …and how this was reflected in a package of legislation' begs the question, if that's the case, people deserve to know exactly what was agreed," he said.

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