Two Sinn Fein Assemblymen were claiming benefits in 1982, though it does not seem to have been known publicly at the time, a file released at the Public Records Office in Belfast reveals.
The individuals — whose identities have been hidden under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act which protects ‘personal data’ — were abstaining from the Assembly, where they would have been paid £8,700 (equivalent to £22,600 today). However, although the full names have been removed, there is a reference to one of the individuals being named Morrison.
They were registered as unemployed, with one claiming £23.65 (£61.50) a week and the other claiming £66.97 (£174) a week.
Government officials concluded that it would be “unfair” to treat their unclaimed salaries as if they were in receipt of them, but acknowledged that the issue was “politically sensitive”.
Officials considered that it would be unreasonable to ask the individuals to break ranks with their party colleagues and the stance on which they had stood for election.
They also noted that by choosing to take benefits rather than their Assembly salaries the individuals were saving the public purse a considerable sum.