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Sinn Fein still richest party by far, but both it and DUP live beyond their means

By Noel McAdam

Stormont's two controlling parties spent beyond their means last year a new report has revealed - with Sinn Fein emerging yet again as the richest party with an income more than double that of the DUP.

With the Assembly and Executive facing financial meltdown and operating on a 'phantom' budget, both parties have spent more than they brought in.

With 67 seats out of 108 between them in the Assembly and 10 of the 14 ministerial portfolios, Sinn Fein and the DUP have the numbers to push any agreed policies through.

The republican party earned more than twice as much as the DUP, new figures from the Electoral Commission show.

SF's income amounted to £1.2m in 2014, dwarfing the DUP's returns of £482,370.

Sinn Fein was in debt by £139,397, according to the report carrying details of all the main parties' spending, while the DUP overspent by some £80,127.

The DUP used the figures last night to take another swipe at its power-sharing partners over the political stalemate on welfare reform, which threatens the future of devolution.

A party statement said: "From the figures published we can see that whilst Sinn Fein are costing the public purse £2m every week, they can maintain their own income levels at well beyond that of any other party in Northern Ireland.

"Sinn Fein are happy to punish every single person through welfare penalties, but whilst their economic incompetence is saved for the public finances there have been no cuts to Sinn Fein's own wealth."

Sinn Fein hit back, saying: "Sinn Fein accounts for all its income centrally including the income of our party's MLAs. The figures published today do not take into account the total income of the public representatives of other parties.

"In the interests of accountability and transparency, we have consistently called for all donations of more than £500 to political parties to be declared.

"Sinn Fein will not be lectured by parties intent on following the agenda of a British Government Cabinet of millionaires on our refusal to take £2m a week in welfare cuts out of the pockets of the most disadvantaged in society."

The DUP also said any accusation of it living beyond its means "does not stack up".

DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson added: "Sinn Fein's income is nearly equal to that of the DUP, SDLP and UUP combined.

"What we do not know is how much of this money has come from public money, which should have been paid directly to public representatives, some of whom are then forced to rely on benefits.

"We will also continue to press the Government at Westminster to end the payment of allowances of Sinn Fein MPs who do not even turn up to Parliament to do the job the public elect them to do."

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