‘Big questions’ hover over how republican spent five-figure sum of public cash

Caitriona Ruane
Caitriona Ruane

It remains unclear exactly how a republican political figure has spent tens of thousands of pounds she had received from the Assembly – money which was paid to her despite the fact she quit as an MLA 10 months earlier.

TUV leader Jim Allister said “big questions” linger over the five-figure salary which was still being given to Caitriona Ruane from the point of her resignation as MLA on January 25 this year up until she renounced it on Thursday night.

Mr Allister had this week uncovered that although Ms Ruane (formerly Sinn Fein MLA for South Down) did not stand in the last Assembly election, she still continued to hold the post of principal deputy speaker – a role which commands a salary of £55,500 and effectively involved her being second-in-command of the Assembly chamber.

Once this ongoing appointment became public knowledge on Thursday, Ms Ruane gave the job up (a job which she could not perform in any case because the Assembly is not holding any debates due to the political deadlock).

Ms Ruane said she had “put on record with the Assembly” some time ago that she would be donating her salary “to a wide range of charities,” adding that the beneficiaries include an Irish language group, gay group, elderly group, and disabled charity – but she did not name them.

Mr Allister said yesterday that “we now know that Ruane was taking money no fair-minded person could believe she was entitled to,” and questioned whether Sinn Fein had received any of the money.

He said: “There are big questions for the republican party to answer and I am not hearing any answers.”

Sinn Fein had said that because Ms Ruane was no longer an MLA, the whole affair was nothing to do with the party.

The News Letter yesterday emailed questions for Ms Ruane’s attention directly to her and to Sinn Fein – namely, which charities got the money and when, whether she or Sinn Fein got any of the cash, and in what sense she had put these arrangements “on record with the Assembly”.

There was no response.

The Assembly itself meanwhile said it either did not hold the information or that it “does not comment on any discussions relating to the salary or private financial affairs of an MLA”.