Assembly speaker Robin Newton continues to be paid salary

Assembly speaker Robin Newton continues to be paid his salary until the election of a new speaker
Connla Young

THE assembly speaker, who faced calls to resign over his handling of a statement by Arlene Foster on the RHI scandal, continues to be paid his salary even though the future of the devolved institutions remains uncertain.

The DUP's Robin Newton came in for unprecedented criticism last year after he allowed the former first minister to address the assembly without the support of then deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.

His decision sparked a mass walk-out by other parties and he was later subject to a motion of no confidence from Sinn Féin, which was withdrawn at the last minute when the DUP employed a petition of concern.

While ministers stopped being paid on election day last week, Mr Newton remains in office until the selection of a new speaker and continues to receive his salary.

It emerged this week that the potentially divisive election of a new speaker has been delayed to March 27.

Asked about the speaker's pay, a spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Assembly directed The Irish News to a table on its website which states that the current salary is £87,000 - made up of £49,000 for his role as MLA and £38,000 for the duties of speaker.

She also referred to 'guidance for members during an election campaign' which states that “the speaker and deputy speakers will continue to hold office until they are either reappointed or a new speaker/deputy speakers are appointed".

“Salaries, including office holders’ salaries, will be payable up to and including that date.”

Mr Newton’s deputies included re-elected SDLP assembly member Patsy McGlone, the UUP’s Danny Kennedy, who lost his seat, and principal deputy speaker Caitriona Ruane, who stepped down as a Sinn Féin MLA.

Deputy speakers are paid a salary of £55,000 annually.

A DUP spokesman directed enquiries about Mr Newton’s salary to the 'speaker's office'.

Mr Kennedy and Mr McGlone said they were not aware of what salary arrangements were in place.

A spokesman for Sinn Féin said: "Caitríona Ruane is no longer an MLA and she will not be taking a salary from the institutions."

Alliance Party MLA Stewart Dickson last night said any attempt to reappoint Mr Newton, who has defended his role as speaker, could cause division.

“It is clear the speaker does not command either the confidence of the majority of MLAs or respect of the chamber,” he said.

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