Belfast Telegraph

MLA pay 'unsustainable', says DUP as Sinn Fein calls on governments to take issues out of local hands to restore power sharing

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has said it is right for the Secretary of State to look at options around MLA pay, saying it is "unsustainable" for representatives to continue to receive their full salaries.

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, says the UK Government needs to act rather than come up with "half-baked" proposals which "give the illusion of something happening" calling on London and Dublin officials to deal separately with the contentious issues to allow the party along with the DUP to work to restore power sharing.

On Monday Karen Bradley in the House of Commons issued a statement on the Northern Ireland budget. She said she was "minded" to cut MLA pay following a report in December which recommended a third of a cut in pay for Northern Ireland's £49,500-per-year elected representatives.  She said she wanted to consult with the parties on the matter.

DUP deputy leader and the party's Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds said his party had been calling for action from Westminster including on MLA pay.

"Just as Sinn Fein MPs shouldn't be paid the full amount at Westminster so clearly it is unsustainable for MLAs to be paid the full amount. There is another issue as to if staff should be affected," he told the BBC.

We've delivered the money and we need ministers to spend it. Nigel Dodds

Mr Dodds said the statement from the Secretary of State would help alleviate the public's frustration over the continued political impasse.

"What we are saying is that without prejudice to restoring devolution ... we need to have decision making and that means parliament must take decisions and we welcome the fact decisions are going to be made.

"That is good for health, education and infrastructure. We've delivered the money and we need ministers to spend it.

"We care about the restoration of Stormont and we think it is the best way forward for Northern Ireland. People want decisions to be made and if there is room for local input then that is all good.

"If we can not get the Assembly up and running we can't have a situation in which Northern Ireland drifts."

Mr Dodds dismissed suggestions the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference should be established describing it as no more than a "talking shop" that had no powers and could only deal with non-devolved matters.

"The main thing is to have executive decision making and if that can not be done at Stormont, the only place it can be done is at Westminster," he added.

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Conor Murphy

Sinn Fein said it was clear the British government had "no clear plan to restore government" in Northern Ireland.

MLA Conor Murphy said the quickest way to restore a "full-functioning Assembly and Executive" was for the British and Irish governments themselves to deal with rights issues and legacy funding matters.

"They [Karen Bradly and the Prime Minister] have not come forward with any plan to restore the Executive.  There is no pathway through any of the proposals I have seen but merely an attempt to put the Assembly into suspended animation and to try and justify continuing at some form or level people's pay."

He questioned the purpose of a shadow or transitional Assembly as has been mooted in response to the Secretary of State's comments in the Commons.

"Is it to create a pathway back to devolution? Or to continue the denial or rights, to create an illusion of something being done when nothing is being done?"

The two governments could bring forward propositions to remove those issues which seem to be the stumbling block for us going back into the institutions. Conor Murphy

Mr Murphy said the quickest way to restore the Stormont institutions was to do it through the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference which could deal with the issues "and denial of rights".

"We have not heard any proposition from [Karen Bradley] as yet but what she seem to be suggesting doesn't create any pathway to anything rather than a continued limbo form of politics which is not acceptable after such a long time.

"The DUP have been able to frustrate the process. The two governments have sovereign responsibility, they are co-guarantors of the agreement they could bring forward propositions to remove those issues which seem to be the stumbling block for us going back into the institutions.

"Karen Bradley does not seem to offer anything.

"The reality is we had an agreement with the DUP .. both governments need to take on the issues of rights, they agree they should be available to people... they need to take those obstacles off the table and allow us to get back together and get the institutions working again.

"What Karen Bradley said last night doesn't seem to offer any path."

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