Stormont leaders defend MLAs receiving salaries despite Assembly impasse

The leaders of Stormont's two main parties have defended the continued payment of Assembly member salaries while devolution is in cold storage.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin's Northern Ireland chief Michelle O'Neill stressed that their elected representatives were still working hard.

The 90 members of the devolved legislature in Belfast have been receiving their £49,500 basic salary since their election in March, despite the fact the Assembly has not sat during the powersharing impasse.

The UK government has the ultimate responsibility for any decision to reduce salaries amid the Stormont stand-off. It has not yet signalled any intention to take action on the issue.

Asked if wages should be cut, Mrs Foster said her colleagues would be working over the summer trying to find resolutions to the issues preventing a coalition executive being formed.

"I think that would be a relevant question if we weren't doing any work," she said.

"I have indicated very clearly that we intend to continue the negotiations, the coming together, the talks over the summer months.

"I do accept that there will be people off on holidays from time to time, but I think what you are hearing from myself and the DUP is a commitment to continue the work, because we want to find an accommodation that everybody can buy into and we want to find an accommodation that is long-lasting and that will not lead to further problems six months down the line."

Sinn Fein MLAs are not paid the full Assembly salary. They take what the party deems an average industrial wage, with the remainder going to Sinn Féin coffers.

Mrs O'Neill highlighted that her party's MLAs were still doing important work in their constituencies.

"Our people are here, our MLAs are here," she said, addressing the question at Parliament Buildings, Belfast.

"They are working and they will continue to work. We are very focused on wanting to make these institutions work and we are also very focused on delivering first class constituency services for all of our citizens.

"In the immediate term we'll keep at our work and keep doing what we do well."

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said his party's representatives were not in politics for the money, but to deliver for people.


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