A senior DUP figure has faced criticism after stating that he and a number of other MLAs are considering leaving political life unless devolution returns to Northern Ireland.
Former DUP Stormont minister Edwin Poots said he is seriously looking at the possibility of a new career, as the political stalemate shows no sign of abating.
But his remarks have been slammed by politicians from other parties, who described them as “unhelpful” and accused Mr Poots of sending out “the wrong message”.
While the former health minister is the most high-profile MLA to talk about leaving politics if Stormont does not return, he told the News Letter that a number of other Assembly members are also “considering their options”.
The leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, Steven Agnew, has revealed that he is actively searching for part-time work ahead of expected cuts to MLAs’ pay.
Mr Agnew told the Press Association he has taken the decision because he has “two kids to care for and bills to pay”.
“I am not looking out of politics but I have actively started looking for additional work,” he added.
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan told the News Letter that, while he was not seeking to leave politics, he is considering returning to a law career on a part-time basis to supplement his income.
In December, the secretary of state was advised to cut MLA salaries by £13,612 in the absence of an Assembly.
This has led to increased speculation about the future of the Province’s politicians who face having one-third of their income slashed.
Lagan Valley MLA Mr Poots told the News Letter: “With the future looking so uncertain, any wise politicians will be contemplating other options.
“I have spoken to a number of MLAs who have made it clear that, unless Sinn Fein is prepared to soften its stance and go back into power-sharing, they will have to look at career prospects elsewhere.”
However, Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler accused Mr Poots’ of “abandoning ship”.
He told the News Letter: “It sounds like an admission of defeat, like Mr Poots has nothing else to offer. It sends out the wrong message and is unhelpful. What people need is hope that the crisis at Stormont can be overcome.”
Mr McCrossan also criticised Mr Poots’ remarks, stating: “While DUP and Sinn Fein MLAs may wish to change their career paths, it is these two parties which hold the key to unlocking the political crisis.
“Other parties have been locked out of the negotiation process and so our political futures are in the their hands.”