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Questions over Simon Hamilton's accountability

Health minister Simon Hamilton has been forced into u-turn over his comments on pay
Seanín Graham

NORTHERN Ireland’s biggest trade union representing NHS workers has questioned the "accountability" of the health minister after it emerged he is being paid for the hours he is working - despite his insistence he wasn’t.

Unison’s Joe McCusker was responding to yesterday’s revelations in the Irish News regarding the Assembly’s payment to DUP ministers who have resigned and been reappointed in recent weeks as part of a party strategy to keep their posts from republicans and nationalists.

Mr Hamilton claimed in a BBC interview on September 17 that he "didn’t expect to get paid" for his weekly return to his job, in which he has spent "several hours" signing off on policies.

But the Assembly, which is responsible for ministerial pay, confirmed on Monday that the four DUP minsters who quit and have been renominated "are being paid for their days in post".

The union chief hit out, saying: "It appears that ministers can do what they want without reproach or redress. This is a major concern and raises questions about the accountability of ministers,” he said.

"As a union we will be discussing this issue."

Mr Hamilton, who was in post yesterday, officially declined an interview request with the Irish News yesterday.

However, speaking to other media yesterday evening, Mr Hamilton was forced into an embarrassing u-turn and admitted the DUP is making arrangements with the Assembly so its ministers will not be paid for the days they are in office.

The Assembly meanwhile confirmed yesterday it had not received instructions on any payments to date.

"Currently, the assembly has not received instructions from any minister regarding the payment or non payment of their office holder's salary," a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Janice Smyth, director of the Royal College of Nursing in the north and who has made repeated calls for Mr Hamilton to return to post, said: "We would like to see Mr Hamilton receive his full salary and take up his post full-time.

On the subject of Mr Hamilton receiving his salary despite his denial he wasn’t taking a wage for his hours worked, Ms Smyth added: "I think that’s a matter for him and the public can make up their own minds about that."

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