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Northern Ireland parties exploring ways to reverse £1k MLA pay rise

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The new Northern Ireland Executive.

The new Northern Ireland Executive.

The new Northern Ireland Executive.

Northern Ireland's political parties are exploring ways to reverse a £1,000 pay rise given to MLAs after power sharing was restored.

MLAs' pay increased from £49,500 to £50,500 with the return of power sharing. The increase had been put on hold with the suspension of devolution.

However, following public anger several MLAs said the pay rise was wrong, with some saying they will give the extra money to charity.

DUP and Sinn Fein said they were exploring options to see if pay rise can be returned. The SDLP said all its MLAs would donate the money to charity while the UUP and Alliance said it was a matter for individual MLAs.

Sinn Fein MLA Michelle O'Neill tweeted: "MLAs pay is set by an independent body, not by MLAs.

"MLAs had no input into this decision, nor did they seek it. Given that the assembly has just been restored this is unjustifiable and should not be paid."

DUP MLA Diane Dodds, who is the Minister for Economy, told Good Morning Ulster that she had "no idea" that the pay rise was coming.

"I think whoever thought that this was a good thing to do at this particular juncture is way of the mark. I don't think folk out there will understand in any sense how it is sensible to have a pay rise for people who sit in an institution who hasn't met for three years."

The DUP and Sinn Fein released statements yesterday saying MLAs' pay is set by an independent body and not by MLAs, and that members of the Assembly had not sought the pay rise.

TUV MLA Jim Allister said: "I completely understand why there is such public anger. The timing of this pay rise is inappropriate.

"MLAs haven't been functioning in all regards for three years. Yet 10 days after they return to work, they secure a salary increase. While it is not of their making, it is immensely embarrassing."

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, who vehemently opposes the pay rise, said it was a "slap in the face" to nurses who had to take to picket lines over pay and working conditions they faced.

The Belfast Telegraph has again contacted each of the political parties to ask them their position on what MLAs should do with the extra money.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said the party was opposed to the increase.

"Given that the assembly has just been restored this increase is unjustifiable. Sinn Fein will not accept it," the spokesperson said.

“We are actively exploring options for stopping this pay rise.

“If that’s not possible then we will see if this money can be returned to public funds or donated to charity.”

The DUP said it was "totally opposed to this pay rise in light of the very recent restoration of the Assembly.

"The DUP supports the concept that pay levels should be entirely independent of any MLA input."

"We are currently examining options to see whether this rise can be returned and if not then it is the view of our members that they will not keep any additional salary but instead support local causes."

An Alliance Party spokesperson said: "Charitable donations are a personal and private matter for individual MLAs and not something on which Members generally comment publicly."

"MLA pay is set by an independent body to ensure MLAs don't control their and their staff pay and conditions.

"The rise is a result of the Independent Financial Review Panel determination and not a decision for MLAs. Any reasoning for the rise needs to be explained by the panel.

"We are not happy with the timing or content of this increase but it is not within our gift to refuse it unless sole control of salaries and office cost allowances is returned to MLAs, and that would be a retrograde step in terms of public confidence."

A SDLP spokesperson confirmed that each of its 12 MLAs have taken the decision to donate their pay increase to a number of charities.

A spokesperson said: “MLA pay and office costs should not be determined by Assembly members and it's right that an independent body is responsible for reviewing these matters. This pay increase, however, is poorly judged and even more poorly timed.

“SDLP MLAs have each decided to donate this salary increase to a charity of their own choice.

“The SDLP will also make representations to the Independent Pay Review Body urging them to consider public confidence in the political process when making future awards."

An Ulster Unionist spokesperson said: “MLAs didn`t seek this pay rise and the timing of its announcement further undermines the perception of politics in the eyes of the public.

“It is down to individual MLAs what they do with the pay rise.”

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