Northern Ireland

Ex-Rolls Royce executive Rose Mary Stalker defends 'eye-watering' fee for heading up council jobs initiative

Invest NI chair Rose Mary Stalker. Picture by Andrew Towe
Invest NI chair Rose Mary Stalker. Picture by Andrew Towe Invest NI chair Rose Mary Stalker. Picture by Andrew Towe

THE FORMER Rolls Royce executive who headed up Mid & East Antrim Borough council's response to the loss of hundreds of manufacturing jobs has defended her "eye-watering" £1100-a-day fee.

Rose Mary Stalker, who is the first woman to chair Invest NI, said she was paid the "market rate" for her role with the council-sponsored Manufacturing Task Force (MTF).

The group was set up after the closure of Michelin and JTI Gallagher, which between them employed more than 1500 people in Ballymena.

It emerged through the council that Ms Stalker was paid £114,000 for "100 days service".

She left the role in August 2019 to become chair of the Invest NI board, of which she has been a member since 2012, with a salary of £42,790 for four days a month – the equivalent of £890 a day.

In a statement issued after the council made her fee public, the former executive with Ford, Boeing and Rolls-Royce said she was "headhunted" to chair the Manufacturing Task Force and interviewed for the role alongside "at least four others candidates".

Ms Stalker said the job brief included a "daily rate appropriate for that level of position".

"The remuneration for the contract was comparable to what would be expected by my peers in this industry, and certainly not unusual for the level of work involved or expertise required," she said.

She said the task force had no members when it was set up and that membership had grown to "almost 50 companies, including Caterpillar, Ryobi, Moy Park, Senseta and IPC Mouldings" by the time of her departure.

"The Manufacturing Task Force continues to work on collaborative interventions, many of which were instigated during my time as chair, which will positively impact the local community for many years to come," she said

Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said he was supportive of the task force initiative but that it needed to deliver jobs to the Ballymena area.

"Whilst this was obviously important work I think that certainly most ratepayers within Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will be raising their eyebrows at someone getting paid £1100 per day," he said.

"I think they might now also be asking to see tangible benefits in terms of additional investment and additional jobs being brought to the area as a result of the work of this task force."

SDLP councillor Eugene Reid said ratepayers would be "shocked to learn of the eye-watering salary".

He said Ms Stalker's fee was "more than the first or deputy first minister on a pro-rata basis".

"There is no doubt that we need a taskforce to revitalise industry in this area, given the number of closures in recent years and this expertise will cost money, but questions must be asked as to how this staggering salary figure was reached," he said.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council did not respond to a request for comment.