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Northern Ireland Assembly members' salaries to be cut by £14,000

The North has been without an Executive since January 2017 because of an ongoing row between Sinn Féin and the DUP.

Karen Bradley addressing the House of Commons
Karen Bradley addressing the House of Commons

THE SECRETARY OF state for Northern Ireland has announced a cut of almost £14,000 to members of the Stormont Assembly’s salaries.

The North has been without an Executive since January 2017 because of an ongoing row between Sinn Féin and the DUP. 

Karen Bradley gave a statement to the House of Commons regarding “the restoration of the government in Northern Ireland” announcing that the cut to the MLAs’ salaries will happen in two stages. 

The first cut of £7,425 will be followed by a further reduction of £6,187 in three months’ time.

“Northern Ireland needs devolved government, it needs all the functioning political institutions of the Belfast Agreement and its successors. 

As this impasse continues, public services are suffering, businesses are suffering, the people of Northern Ireland are suffering. 

“Local decision making is needed urgently to address this,” Bradley told the House of Commons. 

Bradley said that the cuts were being made in line with recommendations made by former Assembly chief Trevor Reaney who recommended a pay cut until a functioning Executive is restored. 

Last December, a report by Reaney made a number of recommendations including that MLA pay be docked by 27.5% from £49,500 to £35,888.

“The reduction will take effect in two stages commencing in November.

“It would not reduce the allowance of staff – I do not think the MLAs’ staff should suffer because of the politician’s failure to form an Executive,” Bradley said. 

The secretary of state also ruled out calling an election as she is required to do under current legislation.

“I have not believed and do not now believe that holding an election during this time of significant change and political uncertainty would be helpful or would increase the prospects of restoring the Executive.

“I intend, therefore, to introduce primary legislation in October to set aside for a limited and prescribed period the legal requirement to propose a date for a further election,” She told MPs.

Reacting to Bradley’s announcement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that it further underlines the seriousness of the absence of the devolved institutions of Northern Ireland. 

“It is welcome that a dialogue commenced between the political parties this week. I want to see this followed up on with a political process that can secure an agreement on the operation of the devolved institutions,” Coveney said in a statement.

The Tánaiste added that he would be engaging further with Bradley on “how both Governments can most effectively support that urgent work in the period immediately ahead”.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA released a statement saying that the need for such a statement “lies wholly with Sinn Fein’s decision to boycott the Assembly, Executive and the House of Commons”.

She went on:

The DUP was able to deliver an additional £1.5b for Northern Ireland. It is deeply frustrating and utterly careless that Sinn Fein has decided to block government for almost 600 days.
Whilst only a small step towards decisions being made, we welcome the statement from the Secretary of State. Ultimately, Northern Ireland needs a Ministerial decision-making mechanism which respects democracy. We have been and will continue to press the Government to get a mechanism in place which can ensure decisions about front line services are no longer left in abeyance. We will continue to engage with the Government in the coming weeks to find the best way forward.

She said the DUP would prefer to have a fully functioning local Executive “where decisions about our schools, roads and hospitals are being made in Northern Ireland”.

She described Sinn Fein as “the roadblock to an Executive”, saying: “It is the only major party boycotting the Executive. All other parties would elect Ministers today without preconditions.”

We stand ready to form an Executive today and enter an Assembly with nothing but our mandate. Our proposal from August 2017 to run a talks process in parallel with an Executive was rejected by Sinn Fein within an hour of being published but that offer still stands.

Foster described the proposal to reduce the pay for MLAs as “a sensible step as we are not able to fulfil our full role as legislators”. 

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