Wilson wants Sinn Féin benefits probe

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson

Former finance minister Sammy Wilson has called for social security officials to investigate "benefit claims for every Sinn Féin councillor" across the north.

The East Antrim MP asked his DUP colleague and social development minister Mervyn Storey to initiate a probe following a court case last month in which a Sinn Féin elected representative in Derry was accused of claiming benefits while sitting on his local council.

Colin Kelly (30), of Kildrum Gardens in the city, was acquitted of four charges of failing to declare a change in circumstances and one charge of making a false declaration in relation to claiming £19,000 in benefits between November 2010 and March 2014.

Mr Kelly said he had been claiming Job Seekers Allowance since 2008 before being co-opted onto Derry City Council in 2010.

He said his council allowance went straight into a bank account to which he had no "card, no cheque book, no access at all" and that all the money went straight to Sinn Féin.

He told a court he had been re-elected to the council in 2011 and 2015 and received expenses from the party for his travel and his telephone.

Deputy District Judge Brian Archer said if the money had been paid directly to Kelly he would have been convicted but acquitting the councillor, the judge said that in light of the fact that the money was paid to Sinn Féin, the party should consider repaying the outstanding debt.

Mr Wilson yesterday hit out at Sinn Fein's practice of redirecting councillors' allowances into party coffers.

"It is little wonder that Sinn Féin do not wish to see welfare reform since it would appear the party itself is engaged in widespread benefit abuse," he said.

"At the very least, Sinn Féin should be forced to pay back all of the allowances they have taken from their councillors as one way of repaying the public money that was given out in benefits to those public representatives."

A Sinn Féin spokesman said Mr Wilson's allegation was "disgraceful and entirely without foundation".

"We will not be taking lectures from someone who has built a career out of double jobbing," the spokesman said.

A spokesman for the Department for Social Development said: "The department has noted this recent case and is examining the implications of the ruling."