Embarrassment for Gregory Campbell over ministers' pay
East Derry MP Gregory Campbell was left embarrassed yesterday after being contradicted by his own party.
Mr Campbell insisted the money paid to each of the party's in-out ministers had been returned.
First describing yesterday's revelations as a "classic Irish News non story – and they're specialists at that", he said the DUP ministers had not benefited from their short stints in office.
Mr Campbell said he understood each minister had written a cheque and presented it to the assembly's finance office.
"I haven't spoken to each individual minister but that is what they agreed to do and I'm sure that is what they've done," he said.
However, shortly after Mr Campbell's claim the assembly issued a statement which said it had "not received instructions from any minister regarding the payment or non payment of their office holder’s salary".
In a statement, the DUP said it had approached the assembly about repaying the money but it appears this process may only have been initiated yesterday after The Irish News story.
Asked when the DUP proposed paying back the money, the assembly refused to say.
The Stormont officials' silence on the matter prompted TUV leader Jim Allister to accuse the office of "hiding the truth".
"There is a need for absolute clarity on this matter and it is something I will force to be answered through assembly questions eventually anyway," the North Antrim MLA said, adding that he intended to table a "two day priority written question" to the Assembly Commission.
"The public have had enough of these silly games – hiding the truth about when the DUP raised this matter with the assembly will only cause both the assembly and the DUP to sink further in the estimation of the electorate".
Mr Allister has also queried whether DUP ministers' resignations at one minute after midnight entitles them to two days' pay.
A DUP spokesman said the party had indicated on the day of its initial resignations that ministers would not be keeping salary money and that discussions about returning the payment to the assembly had taken place.
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".