Questions have been raised about the status of Stormont’s two junior ministers.
Following Paul Givan’s resignation as first minster, it is unclear who Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney and the DUP’s Gary Middleton report to and whether they are still entitled to their junior minister’s salary.
Earlier this week, TUV leader Jim Allister asked deputy Stormont speaker Patsy McGlone about Mr Kearney “purporting to represent the Executive Office at the joint committee with the EU”.
Mr McGlone replied that a 1999 Assembly determination had “set out the circumstances in which junior ministers cease to hold office, and those circumstances do not include the current situation”.
“Beyond that, questions about the responsibilities that ministers continue to conduct at the present time are essentially for the ministers,” he added.
Mr Allister said this did not answer his question, and asked: “[To] whom are they are they accountable and how are they made accountable to the house?”
Mr McGlone said he would raise the matter with the Speaker’s Office. It declined to reply when approached.
SDLP MLA and Executive Office committee chair Sinead McLaughlin said the public had a right to know if junior ministers were still receiving salary increases, adding: “I was surprised to learn this week that the junior ministers are still in post and carrying out duties. The committee was recently told that the junior ministers could not attend in the absence of an Executive, but they appear able to pick and choose other duties to perform.”
The Executive Office said: “The Junior Ministers remain in office and continue to carry out certain engagements. In the absence of a First Minister and deputy First Minister, Junior Ministers cannot make any commitments or decisions at, or arising from, these engagements.”