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Editor's Viewpoint

MLAs' £1k pay rise is an insult to us all

Editor's Viewpoint


Julian Smith

Julian Smith

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Julian Smith

Had the powers-that-be wanted to insult the people of Northern Ireland, they could not have done it more effectively than they did by offering MLAs an extra £1,000 on their salaries, bringing them to £50,500.

Yes, it was money that was pending after being withheld during the past three years when the politicians absented themselves from Stormont, and MLAs' salaries are set by an independent body.

But in the eyes of the public they have hardly warmed their seats at Stormont and already they are earning more money.

Remember, during the three years when devolved government was in limbo the politicians were paid almost £15m, although not doing the jobs they were elected to carry out.

Even Secretary of State Julian Smith said last October - before parties agreed to restore devolution - that paying out that sum of money for an institution not doing its job was unacceptable.

In that, he was totally reflecting the view of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, who had seen public services withering through lack of the necessary political direction.

Strictly speaking, under the rules the MLAs are entitled to this pay increase, but it feels like a slap in the face to the public and to those health workers who went on strike to get pay parity with colleagues in England. It was local politicians who decided that nurses here would not get the same pay as their peers in Britain. Ask nurses who have lost money because they went on strike how they feel about the politicians and the answers may well be unprintable.

We should also remember that the Westminster Government has played a blinder in getting the parties back to work before revealing that they would not have the funding required to carry out the projects outlined in the new deal.

Suggestions on how to make up the huge funding shortfall include increasing rates, introducing water charges or hiking tuition fees. In essence, that means taking more money out of the pockets of the people in the worst performing regional economy in the UK.

Perhaps MLAs, who earn roughly twice the average worker's wage, will show that they repent of their past abstention from work and donate their £1,000 increase to the beleaguered health service.

It will only be a drop in the ocean of money that public service needs, but it would show that politicians really do listen to the public.

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