Sinn Fein has insisted that all its MLAs and MPs receive a standard “recommended wage” after a list of party donations this week appeared to show some politicians handing over far more of their salaries than others.
The republican party said it was “false and misleading” to compare the donations on the list from different MLAs, on the grounds that many of them had handed over sums which did not show up on the published register.
The renewed focus upon the party’s policy of giving all MLAs and MPs a single flat salary of £28,480 – often dubbed by the party the “average industrial wage” – stems from the long-awaited publication of details of political donors by the Electoral Commission this week.
Released on Monday, the list represented the first time that the veil of secrecy around political donations has been lifted in the Province.
Among other things it showed that the Alliance Party had received £15,000 from liberal political lobby group the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, whilst the North Antrim branch of the DUP got just under £5,000 from London-based property firm Gross-Hill.
However, a great deal of the list is made up of sums given to parties by their own politicians – mainly Sinn Fein.
Combing through the figures in detail reveals wildly varying amounts given by its different representatives at different times during last year, with only around half of Sinn Fein’s MLAs appearing on the list of donors.
However, Sinn Fein has put this apparent disparity down to the way the figures have been published.
The law states that the Electoral Commission is only meant to reveal details of large-scale gifts from people who have donated since July last year.
And Sinn Fein claims that some of its politicians gave large sums to the party, but did so before July – meaning they do not show up on the list.
“A number of our MLAs, including Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Michelle O’Neill, had already donated more than the reporting threshold of £7,500 by the end of June,” it said in a statement.
“The wide variation [in the amount of donations on the list] is due to the fact that our elected representatives donate different amounts at different times of the year.”
It concluded by stating that “all MLAs and MPs currently receive the recommended wage” (though it added that its councillors are not entitled to this standard wage).
The news comes two months after Dublin North West TD Dessie Ellis told the Irish Independent newspaper that he had been drawing his entire TD’s salary of €89,965 (about £79,500) for years, instead of sticking to the €37,000 (roughly £33,000) stipulated by Sinn Fein.
However, the flexibility shown to the Sinn Fein MLAs in terms of how much and when they pay stands in contrast to the account given by one of its former councillors.
Sorcha McAnespy, now an independent councillor, had given a striking account of being compelled to hand over cash to Sinn Fein colleagues, despite asking them to show lenience because she was a low-salaries single mother.