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DUP in fresh bid to end Westminster allowances for absent Sinn Fein MPs

By Noel McAdam

The DUP is to revive attempts to end Parliamentary allowances for absentee Sinn Fein MPs.

Peter Robinson's party is bringing a House of Commons motion urging the Government to reverse the system of payments put in place in 2001.

The DUP argued that Sinn Fein - now reduced from five to four MPs - is "raking in thousands of pounds which they are not entitled to".

Sinn Fein began to receive office cost allowances, worth up to £100,000 a year, after taking up offices in the Commons in 2002.

But the party still refuses to take part in Parliamentary proceedings in line with its historic absentionist policy, which it insists will not change. DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party was simply asking Prime Minister David Cameron to follow through in Government what was promised in opposition.

The DUP's motion states Mr Cameron "was right to say in 2009 that if you don't come to the Westminster Parliament then you cannot claim expenses".

It adds that the Conservative leader was also right when he said before the 2010 election that it was inconceivable that a Conservative majority Government would vote for the taxpayer's money to go on funding absentee members.

Mr Dodds said: "When making the case for fiscal responsibility in the United Kingdom the Prime Minister has told us that 'we're all in this together'.

"However, in the House of Commons all MPs are not equal. Special privileges were put in place back in 2001 to allow Sinn Fein to claim allowances even though they do not carry out their work or role in Parliament itself."

Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty argued, however, republicans were already discriminated against because they do not receive Westminster salaries. "Sinn Fein receives expenses, as do all other parties, for work carried out by Westminster representatives," the West Tyrone MP said.

"This money is used to deliver a first class service for our constituents as we lobby and meet with other groups in Britain in terms of ending partition, working against welfare cuts and developing the economy locally to mention a few areas.

"Sinn Fein are mandated to represent people and therefore are entitled to this money. We make it very clear at elections that we will not take our seats at election time. If anything, Sinn Fein MPs are discriminated against as they do not receive their salaries from Westminster."

The right to allowances were restored in 2011 after they were suspended in the aftermath of the Northern Bank raid and the murder of Robert McCartney.

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