Northern Ireland news

DUP assembly members employing relatives outnumber counterparts in other parties

DUP MLA Trevor Clarke employs his wife
John Manley Political Correspondent

DUP assembly members employing relatives outnumber their counterparts from other parties by almost two-to-one.

In all, there are 13 MLAs employing relatives in roles with no fewer than 11 different job titles.

Employing family members is not prohibited but each MLA is asked to declare family members and any colleague's relations who benefit from office cost expenditure.

The total number of MLAs employing relatives has dropped from 15 in 2019.

In 2016, the rules were changed, limiting to one the number of family members who could work for an MLA.

It led to a significant fallin the number of MLAs employing relatives – five years previously around two-fifths of Stormont representatives had a family member working for them.

Eight of the 25 MLAs from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson's party employ a relative, including spouses, a daughter and a brother.

Sinn Féin and SDLP Stormont representatives don't have any relations working for them, according to the assembly's latest register of interests, while two Ulster Unionists and one Alliance MLA are among those listed as employing family members.

Former UUP leader Steve Aiken's wife works as his part-time research officer and East Belfast MLA Andy Allen employs his wife's aunt's husband as a communications officer.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw's husband works as her parliamentary officer.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw employs her husband. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA

 

The two independents employing relatives – TUV leader Jim Allister and North Down MLA Alex Easton – are both former DUP members.

Mr Allister's daughter works in her father's office as a part-time receptionist and constituency case worker, while Mr Easton's wife is his part-time "Grade 3".

Among the relatives of DUP MLAs listed are William Irwin's office assistant wife, Michelle McIveen's research officer brother and Trevor Clarke's office administrator wife.

The variety of roles held by family members include 'assembly constituency administration clerk', 'assembly constituency communications and engagement officer' and ' constituency assistant'.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said publicly-funded assembly support roles should be filled "based on merit alone".

“Through necessity, assembly rules were previously changed to curtail the widespread employment of family members by MLAs," he said.

“All MLAs should be aware of their obligations in regards to recruitment to assembly support – no inference should be drawn from this statement of fact.”

The parties have been contacted for comment.

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