Assembly silent after staff sacked over social media posts

The Northern Ireland Assembly. ' 'Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
The Northern Ireland Assembly. ' 'Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Several Assembly staff have been sacked for social media posts, it has emerged.

Sources have indicated that three Assembly employees have been dismissed in recent days and that three other cases are pending.

It is believed that the individuals are involved in the running of the building and supporting the work of MLAs and are not political staff directly employed by MLAs.

Individuals who work for the Assembly have to abide by strict impartiality rules, given that they interact with members of all parties and are expected to serve everyone equally.

The News Letter asked the Assembly whether – as we have been told – three staff have been dismissed and three further cases were pending in relation to social media posts.

All that an Assembly spokeswoman would say in reply was: “The Northern Ireland Assembly does not comment on personnel and human resource matters.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said he was “deeply concerned” that a number of Assembly staff had been “summarily dismissed because of their use of social media”.

Mr Allister said: “It is clear to me that the reaction of the Assembly has been totally disproportionate.

“Among the evidence presented against staff are screen shots of retweeted news stories which could be accessed through the internal internet system!

“It is clear that in several of these cases there has been a gross overreaction to social media activity by members of staff.

“While, arguably, the letter of the Assembly’s policy on use of social media may have been breached, it obvious that some have been dismissed without so much as a warning, particularly in the absence of any demonstrable harm caused.”

“On foot of this I have today tabled the following written question: ‘To ask the Assembly Commission how many staff have been disciplined in respect of alleged abuse of social media and what is the breakdown in terms of outcome in respect of such actions.’”

Green Party leader Steven Agnew has also tabled an urgent Assembly question about the matter.

The North Down MLA asked the Assembly Commission – the body of MLAs responsible for running Parliament Buildings – “what rules, protocols or contractual arrangements are in place for Assembly staff use of social media”.

The Assembly said that there is an appeal mechanism for the staff who have been dismissed.