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DUP in disarray after humiliating climbdown over ministers' salaries

Sometime health minister Simon Hamilton with DUP leader Peter Robinson

THE DUP is in disarray after a humiliating climbdown over its ministers' salaries.

The party is under mounting pressure to explain why its in-out ministers were drawing salaries despite claims they weren't being paid.

In a series of further blows to the DUP on Wednesday:

** Gregory Campbell was left embarrassed after being contradicted by his own party leadership. He said the salaries had been repaid by cheque, while the party admitted they had not

** The Irish News understands that sometime Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey was brought to Stormont on Wednesday in a chauffeur-driven ministerial car before he was reappointed a minister

** It also emerged that special advisers to three DUP ministers are to get severance payments

Battling to recover from Tuesday's revelations in the Irish News, there were conflicting statements from senior party members.

East Derry MP and MLA Gregory Campbell claimed the ministers had already returned the money by cheque but DETI minister Jonathan Bell said he had given his £150-a-day payments to his constituency office.

Later, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said the party had held talks with the assembly about returning the money and that no further payments would be made to ministers.

However, the Assembly Commission was accused of "hiding the truth" after it refused to say if the discussion with the DUP took place after the Irish News revealed ministers were paid for the hours worked between their reappointment and resignation.

Since Peter Robinson first withdrew all but one of the DUP's ministers almost a month ago, they have repeatedly been reappointed followed by swift resignations.

A week after the party adopted its in-out policy Mr Hamilton said he "didn't expect to be paid" for the few hours work he carried out the previous day.

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said the DUP "ten minute minister policy" had cost the assembly dearly in terms of public confidence.

"It should not be costing the public purse on top of that – there is a palpable sense of anger at the perceived greed on display and that must be addressed," he said.

Mr Maginness said the party needed to "come clean on the exact amount".

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