NI party leaders tell Westminster committee: It’s time to cut MLAs’ pay

Green Party NI leader Steven Agnew
Green Party NI leader Steven Agnew

Political leaders in Northern Ireland have said it is time to cut Stormont politicans’ pay.

Green Party NI leader Steven Agnew MLA said he was embarrassed to still receive full pay more than a year after the collapse of powersharing in the region.

Robin Swann

Robin Swann

“I think we are at a point where it should be (reduced). I think it is untenable,” he told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster on Tuesday.

“I believe (salaries should be cut). Not for a second because MLAs aren’t working hard, but we are not performing one of our key functions which is to legislate,” he added.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann agreed that MLAs should not be paid for a job that is not being done.

“I’m not doing legislation, I’m not doing that part of my job, so I firmly believe I should not be paid for that part of my job.

Jim Allister

Jim Allister

“If it is an incentive to drive some other parties to get back around the table so be it,” Mr Swann told the committee.

Leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), Jim Allister, said he has already instructed Stormont to no longer pay him part of his salary.

Mr Allister told committee members that following his instruction he is no longer receiving travel allowance, which amounts to around £500 per month.

“This matter (of pay reduction) should have been addressed in January,” the TUV MLA added.

In December the former Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire was advised to cut MLAs’ salaries by £13,612 in the absence of a sitting Assembly at Stormont.

Mr Brokenshire was urged to introduce the cut in two stages, so as not to impact on Assembly members’ “personal circumstances”.

The Northern Ireland executive collapsed in January 2017 over a botched green energy scheme.

Despite months of negotiations, the two biggest parties - the DUP and Sinn Fein - have not agreed a deal to restore powersharing.

Mr Allister, said he does not believe the Stormont political crisis can be fixed.

“If we can’t fix it, close it, and I can’t see any sign of it being fixed,” he said.

“We are in the present situation of failure of government in Northern Ireland because the construction of government contained the seeds of its own destruction.

“To think that we can simply get enough sticking plaster to put it all back together again is an illusion,” he added.

Mr Agnew said he believes there should be a review of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) through a Citizens Assembly.

“We are 20 years on from GFA. Politicians took power and guarded it jealously. We have to go back to the people and ask their consent,” he said.