Northern Ireland news

Stormont flags commission receives £140,000 in pay and expenses

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness with Neville Armstrong and Dominic Bryans in June last year to announce the commission panel
Brendan Hughes

A STORMONT panel examining contentious issues such as flags and bonfires has received almost £140,000 in pay and expenses since it was formed a year ago.

The 15-member Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition has been holding regular meetings since last June and is due to publish its findings by the end of the year.

In total, it has so far received more than £103,000 in remuneration and claimed more than £34,000 in expenses.

The expenses include around £14,500 for mileage, £8,000 for hotels and £7,800 for flights.

The panel is made up of seven political appointees and eight non-political members including joint chairs Dominic Bryan and Neville Armstrong.

The political appointees are ex-DUP MLAs Nelson McCausland and Ian McCrea, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, SDLP appointee Carl Whyte, former Alliance Party adviser Richard Good, former Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley and former Bogside residents spokesman Donncha Mac Niallais.

The other non-political appointees are Professor Thomas Hennessey, former Orange Order worker David Hume, Katy Radford, David Robinson, Mukesh Sharma and ex-DUP representative Ian Crozier.

Mr Hennessey, of Canterbury Christ Church University, received the most at more than £23,200 in pay and expenses, including almost £7,800 for flights and around £6,100 on hotels.

Elected representatives do not receive any remuneration from their work on the commission.

The figures cover the 12-month period until the end of June this year.

However, attendance details have only been published online for 11 of the 12 monthly panel meetings held during the period.

Of the 11 meetings, the DUP's Nelson McCausland had the lowest attendance, turning up to six.

It is understood panel members are split into sub-groups and can attend other additional meetings on this basis.

Unelected commission members are understood to only receive remuneration for the meetings they attend.

A commission spokeswoman said that in addition to the 12 commission meetings, some 120 meetings with organisations, stakeholders and the public had taken place.

"As part of the role of a commissioner, members are required to take part in intensive and continuous stakeholder engagement," she said.

"There have been considerable requests for meetings from groups/organisations/the public etc right across Northern Ireland and, where possible, the commission has sought to facilitate these."

The spokeswoman added: "As outlined within the Fresh Start agreement, remuneration is paid on a standard per diem rate, plus travel and expenses costs.

"Travel expenses are paid to members in line with NICS (Northern Ireland Civil Service) rates and expenses incurred by members on commission business are reimbursed on receipt basis and in line with NICS guidelines.

"Members have to travel from different parts of Northern Ireland and England and use various modes of transport.

"Members have been required to write papers individually and in groups for consideration by the commission."

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