Stormont Assembly members paid £8.5m despite suspension

More than £8 million in salaries has been paid to members of Stormont’s suspended devolved Assembly, the Northern Ireland Secretary said.

Karen Bradley has cut the pay of legislators significantly after an independent report recommended the measure.

Public representatives received a full-time salary from January 2017 to October this year even though the Assembly was not sitting and members were not passing legislation.

North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon said: “We have taken evidence recently in this committee about education budgets being so over-stretched that there have been donations of toilet rolls to primary schools.

“It is absolutely shameful.”

The £8.5 million pay bill was disclosed by Northern Ireland Office officials during evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.

Ms Bradley reminded the committee that she cut Assembly members’ pay earlier this autumn.

It 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.

Karen Bradley
Karen Bradley

Northern Ireland has been without a ministerial Executive since January 2017 after former powersharing partners the DUP and Sinn Fein fell out over the handling of a botched green energy scheme.

The pay cut was suggested last December. Former Assembly chief executive Trevor Reaney recommended the reduction until an Executive is resurrected.

Allowances for staff were not reduced.

Assembly members continue to provide a constituency service and lobby civil servants on a range of issues.

Repeated rounds of negotiations have failed to persuade Sinn Fein and the DUP to patch up their differences over powersharing.

Tensions between Northern Ireland’s two largest parties over Brexit have exacerbated divisions.

Among suggestions to kick-start progress is the appointment of an independent international mediator.

Talks led by the Northern Ireland Office failed amid trenchant criticism from Sinn Fein of the Government.