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New DUP junior minister could earn £128K this year

Junior minister Emma Pengelly’s earnings this year could be around £128,000. Picture by Mal McCann
 
John Manley and Brendan Hughes

NEW DUP minister Emma Pengelly is expected to earn in the region of £128,000 this year, despite having never faced an election.

The South Belfast MLA, who has yet to speak in the assembly, was promoted on Wednesday to the post of junior minister just one month after being co-opted to Stormont.

A DUP councillor described the appointment as "wrong, wrong, wrong".

Ruth Patterson, who said she was snubbed by the DUP when it nominated the former special adviser (Spad) to the assembly, claimed she had "no axe to grind" but the decision was "democracy at its worst".

The DUP's executive partners were all last night declining to comment on the appointment of the first unelected Stormont minister.

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Concerns are expected to be voiced about the former lawyer's public earnings, which this year are expected to eclipse those of her party leader Peter Robinson.

Mrs Pengelly's combined salaries as an OFMDFM adviser, an MLA and now a junior minister – alongside a £45,000-plus severance package for leaving her Spad post – are likely to top £127,000 in this calendar year.

The figure will then drop to the £60,000 paid to junior ministers in future years.

On Wednesday she said she had yet to receive the severance package and indicated that a "considerable amount" would be used to pay for constituency work.

Mrs Pengelly (35) also defended her lack of mandate, saying multi-member constituencies meant it was difficult to run by-elections.

She insisted she was an "incredibly hard worker" with experience in the department she was serving and people should judge her on her actions.

However, Ms Patterson claimed the appointment of an unelected representative combined with the publicity surrounding the severance package would damage her party at the polls.

"This whole episode is not doing the DUP any good whatsoever – I love the party but I do not like the direction which it is being led."

One of the first items of assembly business Mrs Pengelly is expected to attend to is resigning from the Stormont committee probing the controversial sale of Nama's northern loan portfolio.

The qualified barrister, who is the wife of Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly, joined the finance committee just four weeks ago.

However, assembly rules forbid ministers sitting on Stormont scrutiny committees.

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