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Two SDLP MLAs to donate £1k pay rise to charity following public outrage

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Northern Ireland's 90 MLAs returned to work after a three-year break.

Northern Ireland's 90 MLAs returned to work after a three-year break.

PA

Northern Ireland's 90 MLAs returned to work after a three-year break.

Two SDLP MLAs are to donate their £1,000 pay rise to charity and have expressed hope that other Stormont politicians will follow suit.

West Tyrone representative Daniel McCrossan said he would give the money to local mental health charities.

South Down MLA Sinead Bradley said she was joining him and it was “the right thing to do at this time”.

MLAs’ pay increased from £49,500 to £50,500 with the return of power-sharing. The rise had been on hold with the suspension of devolution. The politicians are on course for another £500 pay hike in April.

Mr McCrossan said that the public was “rightly angered and outraged” by the hike.

“After three years of no government here and public services falling apart, a pay rise for MLA’s shouldn’t even be the last thing on the table, never mind the first,” he said.

“This pay rise was not voted on and was not agreed by SDLP MLA’s. I did not want it nor do I think it’s something that we deserve.

“There’s no way to refuse the pay rise. It’s automatic and there’s no way to give it back to the Assembly, I am going to donate any increase I receive to local mental health charities. It may not be a lot, but it could make a lot of difference to some people struggling out there.”

In his Facebook post, Mr McCrossan said that nurses, teachers and civil-servants were being “forced to fight for a pay rise which they deserve”. He added: “There’s a lot of anger and frustration out there and huge challenges ahead.

“As your MLA for West Tyrone, I will not be taking the pay increase and would encourage others to do the same.”

Announcing her intention to do the same in a separate Facebook post, Ms Bradley said: “This is not virtue signalling or an attempt to seek approval, it is just the right thing to do at this time.”

The SDLP woman said that as she didn’t know every MLA’s personal financial circumstances, she couldn’t call on them all to do the same. But she expressed hope that “those who can will do something similar”.

She added: “People’s trust in our institutions needs to be rebuilt, from bottom up.”

Both SDLP MLAs were widely praised on social media. Ms Bradley was hailed as a “beacon of light” and “a fine example of a real politician for the people”.

Mr McCrossan’s decision was described as the“decent thing to do” and there were calls for other politicians to follow suit.

MLA pay was set by the Independent Financial Review Panel. Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit said the rise was a “slap in the face to nurses who stood on freezing pickets for months for pay parity”.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he understood public anger and the timing of the pay rise was inappropriate.

The Alliance Party said it was “not happy with the timing or content of this increase”. Neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein expressed an objection to the rise and both said MLA pay was set by an independent body, and not MLAs.

Belfast Telegraph