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Sinn Féin review recommends ending wages cap

Sinn Féin plans to lift the salary cap for its ministers and MLAs at Stormont. Picture by Mal McCann

SINN Féin is set to end its pay cap policy for elected representatives and workers.

The party is reported to have completed the salary review launched earlier this year in response to concerns voiced by a number of Dublin TDs about the cost of living in the capital.

It is Sinn Féin's current policy to pay all its members, including ministers and special advisers, what it terms an 'average industrial wage', which in the north is in the region of £26,000 and in the Republic €37,000.

The remainder of the salary is used to employ staff and run constituency offices.

While no party members have publicly voiced disatisfaction with the salary cap, there has been a long-running concern that, among other things, it prevents Sinn Féin from recruiting high calibre policy staff.

The industrial wage policy was also reviewed to take account of new rules around recruitment by Stormont's political parties.

In April, Sinn Féin's political director in the south Ken O’Connell said the "one size fits all" policy was not working and that it was being looked at as part of an overall review of party employment policy.

The party established a 'human relations' committee in the spring, headed by national chairman Declan Kearney, which has responsibility for recruitment and remuneration matters across the island.

According to a report in the Irish Times, the review has been completed and recommends ending the salary cap policy.

Sinn Féin declined to comment on the outcome of the review.

"A review was undertaken into pay policy," a statement from the party said.

"That review group has now been completed and its recommendations are under consideration. This process has not yet been concluded."

Commentator Chris Donnelly said ending the cap was a "very significant development", as it acknowledged that it had become an obstacle to attracting and retaining staff who could "devise, articulate and implement" the party's policies and strategies.

"In the south, this is about better equipping the party to meet the challenge of competing with Fianna Fáil as the voice of opposition at a time that polls indicate Sinn Féin are struggling to connect with the electorate," he said.

"But in the north this has the potential to be even more significant – northern Sinn Féin have struggled with the job of transitioning beyond the conflict generation at all levels. Removing the restrictive wage structure should open up the possibility of attracting both representatives and advisory level staff with both the skills and expertise to lift the party's performance at Stormont."

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