Junior ministers still paid but 'can't do anything' says Steven Agnew

Junior ministers Megan Fearon and Alastair Ross last year launching Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week
Brendan Hughes

THE Green Party leader has described as "bizarre" how junior minsters remain in post but "cannot do anything" following Martin McGuinness's resignation.

Steven Agnew questioned their role after being told they could not answer written Assembly Questions (AQs) in the absence of the first and deputy first ministers.

Apart from Arlene Foster and Mr McGuinness, ministers remain in post – and they can continue to draw their salaries up until the date of any snap election.

This includes the junior minsters in the first and deputy first ministers' office, the DUP's Alastair Ross and Sinn Féin's Megan Fearon.

However, it's understood that when any election is called MLAs cannot ask AQs and ministers are unable to formally answer any outstanding queries.

Ministers have annual salaries of around £86,000, while junior ministers receive about £60,000.

North Down MLA Mr Agnew said: "It's a bizarre situation that the junior ministers are still in post but cannot do anything, may still be paid a ministerial salary, but cannot be questioned or held to account by MLAs.

"This is further evidence of the waste and lack of accountability at the core of this executive.

"The abject failure of the executive parties will become a centre issue during any future election."

Stormont appears to be heading for a snap election after Mr McGuinness resigned on Monday as deputy first minister, citing the DUP's handling of the renewable heat scandal.

Mr Agnew added: "I don't think another election is what people want, but there is an alternative to these failed executive parties."

The Executive Office did not respond to requests for a comment.

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