MLAs deserve salaries ‘because they are still working hard’

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton address media as talks wound up at Stormont Castle, Belfast, as Foster has said she is disappointed an agreement to restore powersharing has not been reached in Northern Ireland, suggesting a deal will now have to wait until at least the autumn. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 4, 2017. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: David Young/PA Wire
Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton address media as talks wound up at Stormont Castle, Belfast, as Foster has said she is disappointed an agreement to restore powersharing has not been reached in Northern Ireland, suggesting a deal will now have to wait until at least the autumn. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 4, 2017. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: David Young/PA Wire

The leaders of Stormont’s two main parties have defended the continued payment of Assembly member salaries while devolution is in cold storage.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill stressed that their elected representatives were still working hard.

The 90 MLAs have been receiving their £49,500 basic salary since their election in March.

The UK government has the ultimate responsibility for any decision to reduce salaries amid the Stormont stand-off.

Asked if wages should be cut, Mrs Foster said: “I think that would be a relevant question if we weren’t doing any work.

“I have indicated very clearly that we intend to continue the negotiations, the coming together, the talks over the summer months.

“I do accept that there will be people off on holidays from time to time, but I think what you are hearing from myself and the DUP is a commitment to continue the work, because we want to find an accommodation that everybody can buy into and we want to find an accommodation that is long-lasting and that will not lead to further problems six months down the line.”

Sinn Fein MLAs are not paid the full Assembly salary. They take what the party deems an average industrial wage, with the remainder going to Sinn Fein coffers.

Mrs O’Neill highlighted that her party’s MLAs were still doing important work in their constituencies.

“Our people are here, our MLAs are here,” she said. “They are working and they will continue to work.”

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said his party’s representatives were not in politics for the money, but to deliver for people.