Caitríona Ruane resigns from assembly speaker role and says earnings were donated to charity

Caitríona Ruane continued to be paid as principal deputy speaker despite no longer being an MLA. Picture by Mal McCann

Caitríona Ruane has resigned as the assembly's principal deputy speaker after it emerged that the former MLA was still receiving a £55,000 salary for the post.

Her resignation came shortly after Sinn Féin appeared to distance itself from the former Stormont education minister, saying "any arrangements she may have come to with the assembly were her own affair".

The statement from Sinn Féin suggests Ms Ruane, who stood down as an MLA in March, has not contributed any earnings over and above the average industrial wage to the party's coffers.

In her resignation statement, the former South Down MLA claimed that she told the assembly in March that her earnings would be donated to a range of charities.

"I can confirm that I have donated the monies received to charities and community groups including an Irish language group, a group for the elderly, an LGBT group, and a charity for children with disabilities," she said.

"I never anticipated that the election of a new speaker and deputy speaker would be so protracted and I have come to the conclusion that now is the time to tender my resignation."

She voiced the hope that Stormont would be restored and her successor elected as soon as possible.

It also emerged today that that the SDLP's Patsy McGlone is receiving an extra payment as deputy speaker, whereas his Ulster Unionist counterpart Danny Kennedy resigned from the post when he lost his Stormont seat in March's election.

The SDLP pointed out that Mr McGlone had been re-elected to the assembly.

"The party is now reflecting on the current situation and will be exploring options, including in relation to this post, in the time ahead," a party spokesman said.

The assembly has not sat since January.

TUV leader Jim Allister, who discovered Ms Ruane was still being paid through a question to the assembly, described the situation as a "farce".

The North Antrim MLA said former deputy speaker Danny Kennedy "had the good grace and sense to resign" as a deputy speaker when he lost his seat in May's election.

The assembly said the MLAs fulfilling the various speakers' roles would remain in office and receive their salaries until replacements were elected.

In August, The Irish News revealed that assembly speaker Robin Newton continues to receive £38,000 a year over and above his MLA's salary of £49,000.

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