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Sinn Féin 'to pay back £19,000 in benefits'

Derry councillor Colin Kelly was acquitted of benefit fraud charges
Brendan Hughes

SINN Féin is believed to have agreed to pay back almost £19,000 in unemployment benefits claimed by one of its councillors.

Colin Kelly faced benefit fraud charges after claiming jobseeker's allowance despite receiving a councillor wage.

However, a judge acquitted the Derry councillor in July after a court heard how his council allowance was paid straight to Sinn Féin.

The court was told he had no "card, no chequebook, no access at all" to the account.

Deputy District Judge Brian Archer said Sinn Féin should consider repaying the outstanding debt.

At the time Sinn Féin dismissed the suggestion, saying that the party was "not in court".

But four months on, it appears it has reached an agreement with the Social Security Agency over repaying the money.

The Department for Social Development (DSD) last night confirmed arrangements are now in place to recover the benefits, but did not give details of the agreement.

A spokeswoman said: "Sinn Féin did contact the agency in respect of monies owed in this case and, while the agency cannot discuss the details of individuals or their cases, it can confirm that it is satisfied with arrangements now in place to recover the outstanding benefit."

The councillor had faced charges of failing to declare a change in circumstances and making a false declaration over claiming £19,000 in benefits between November 2010 and March 2014.

Mr Kelly told the court that when he became aware that he might be doing something wrong he tried to rectify it, and had been paying back £85 a month since the start of this year.

Sinn Féin last night refused to comment on the nature of the arrangement.

A spokesman would only say: "DSD are satisfied with the arrangements in place."

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