SF salary arrangement within rules: Assembly

Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flannagan
Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flannagan

The Assembly has said it is content that no rules have been broken after a Sinn Fein MLA said under oath that his party has access to the bank account into which his Assembly salary is paid.

Fermanagh MLA Phil Flanagan made the comments last week during his court case against the Assembly’s former insurance company, which he is attempting to get to pay for his libellous tweet about Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott.

Under cross-examination by barrister Robert Millar for AIG Europe, Mr Flanagan said that “the manner in which Sinn Fein MLAs are paid is that we have to make a contribution to the party”.

Mr Flanagan said that his salary was paid into his bank account. But, under further questioning from Mr Millar, he said that Sinn Fein has access to that account and appeared to suggest that the party then pays him £2,000 a month out of that account.

Explaining the arrangement, he said: “People within Sinn Fein have access to that bank account.”

The Independent Financial Review Panel ruled in 2012 that the then practice of Sinn Fein MLAs having their salaries paid into a party account from which they were then paid a portion of their salaries was “inappropriate”.

It ruled that “all payments for salaries are to be paid into a personal bank account nominated by the member and in the name only of the member and/or their spouse or cohabiting partner”.

An Assembly spokeswoman said: “In line with paragraph 6 (3) of the IFRP’s determination...the Assembly is content that this requirement is met in full.”

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “Sinn Fein MLAs have personal bank accounts. Sinn Fein MLAs receive an average wage and choose to make a voluntary contribution to Sinn Fein to employ support staff and enhance constituency services. All donations made are reported to the Electoral Commission.”