MLAs discuss handing back Stormont pay offs

Dolores Kelly (SDLP) celebrates her election. Photo by Tony Hendron / Press Eye.
Dolores Kelly (SDLP) celebrates her election. Photo by Tony Hendron / Press Eye.

Two SDLP MLAs are to return the taxpayer-funded pay offs they received last year, following their shock return to Stormont last week.

Having been away from frontline politics since last May, party veterans John Dallat and Dolores Kelly both secured seats in their respective constituencies of East Londonderry and Upper Bann in last Thursday’s election.

John Dallat pictured at the count. 

Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.

John Dallat pictured at the count. Photo by Lorcan Doherty / Press Eye.

Mr Dallat, who retired last year, received a severance pay-out of over £50,000, which included a resettlement allowance to the tune of £28,800. This was designed to help him adapt to life outside of politics.

When asked by the News Letter yesterday if he now intended to repay this figure in the wake of his election, Mr Dallat said: “The first thing I did this morning was contact the Department of Finance to see how that can be done. Legal advice is currently being sought on this.”

As well as the resettlement pay-out package, a further £23,000 was paid in winding-up expenditure.

Mr Dallat added: “None of that winding-up money went to me, it was used to pay off my staff.

“The winding-up allowance actually fell short and I paid a further £3,900 out of my own pocket.”

Mr Dallat said he was “delighted” to be back at Stormont and pledged to serve all the people following his election.

He added: “The decision to put my name forward for election was a very difficult one and done only to save the seat which I held for the SDLP for 18 years and, based on last year’s results, was in serious trouble given the number of seats was reduced from six to five.”

Meanwhile, Upper Bann MLA Mrs Kelly received around £65,000 after she failed to be re-elected in the 2016 Assembly election, which included a resettlement payment and a winding-up allowance.

But Mrs Kelly completed a surprise political comeback last week, just 10 months after losing her seat.

An SDLP spokesman said the party is “currently in discussion with Assembly authorities on how MLAs might return funds received following their departure from the Assembly at the beginning of the previous mandate and their return to the Assembly following the 2017 election”.

According to guidelines published on the Assembly website, an MLA can claim a resettlement allowance if they don’t contest an election, or fail to be re-elected following dissolution.

“The allowance is one month’s salary for each full year of service, capped at a maximum of six months’ salary,” it states.