Political news

Sinn Féin faces questions over 'average wage' as TD allowed full €90,000 salary

Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis
Brendan Hughes

SINN Féin is facing questions over its 'average wage' policy after it emerged a senior TD has been allowed his entire Dáil salary of more than €90,000.

The party has long maintained that its elected representatives accept an 'average industrial wage' with the rest donated to Sinn Féin and constituency purposes.

However, Sinn Féin now says the policy is "entirely voluntary".

The response came after it was revealed that Dublin TD Dessie Ellis struck a deal allowing him to draw his whole Dáil wage.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Ellis confirmed he has drawn down the entire salary since his election in 2011.

He said the decision was taken due to personal financial circumstances, and that he intends to change this approach in future.

Until recently, Sinn Fein's 'average industrial wage' was thought to be around £26,000 in the north and €37,000 in the Republic.

However, it was reported that a review led to TDs being allowed a take-home pay of €39,500.

Changes to Stormont rules for constituency staff in 2016 also led to shifts in Sinn Féin policy.

The Irish News asked the party a series of questions on its wage policy, how it operates north and south, and whether anyone else does not adhere to the policy.

In response, Sinn Féin said it reviewed its wage structure in 2016.

"As part of that review the party recommended a wage rate for TDs," a spokesman said.

"It is a matter for the party's elected representatives whether or not they adhere to the recommendation of the party.

"The party does not oversee the implementation of this recommendation as it is not mandatory."

On MLAs, he added: "Sinn Féin MLAs continue to make a voluntary donation to the party."

It is understood the average wage taken by assembly members is just over £26,000.

Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit MLA for West Belfast, said: "Many people will be asking the question – who else did not abide by the average industrial wage policy within Sinn Féin?

"I only take an average worker's wage, as per People Before Profit policy for all of our elected reps. Any party that proclaims to be on the left, in my view, should operate within this principle."

The SDLP said Sinn Féin should clarify its position.

A spokesman said: "After years of claiming their representatives receive the 'average industrial wage', why did they choose to keep the 'voluntary' nature of the policy a secret?

"How many candidates went into elections on that policy only to do a secret deal with the party when the ballot papers were counted?"

Nationalist commentator Chris Donnelly said the developments "will certainly raise eyebrows" within Sinn Féin as some members have "sacrificed professional careers" with higher wages.

But he said there has been much internal discussion about changing the party's policy to broaden its appeal.

"It has been recognised internally by many people that the salary policy has limited Sinn Féin in attracting people who can make a difference in the capacity of the party," he said.

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