Political news

Sinn Féin says all MLAs take 'average wage'

Sinn Féin president-elect Mary Lou McDonald with Dublin TD Dessie Ellis
Brendan Hughes

SINN Féin has insisted all its MLAs adhere to the party's 'average wage' recommendation ­– but cannot say how many TDs follow suit.

The party also says its MPs and northern MEP receive this same salary, but it remains unclear what wage MEPs south of the border accept.

Sinn Féin salaries have come under scrutiny after the party last week said its average wage policy is "entirely voluntary".

For years it had maintained that all its elected representatives accept an 'average industrial wage', with the rest donated to Sinn Féin and constituency purposes.

But it emerged last week that a senior TD has been allowed his entire Dáil salary since 2011.

Dublin representative Dessie Ellis struck a deal with the party allowing him to draw his whole wage of more than €90,000.

Mr Ellis told the Irish Independent the decision was taken due to personal financial circumstances, and that he intends to change this approach in future.

In response, Sinn Féin said its average wage is "entirely voluntary" but declined to "discuss the private financial business of any of our elected representatives".

Until recently, Sinn Fein's 'average industrial wage' was thought to be around £26,000 in the north and €37,000 in the Republic.

However, it was reported that a review led to TDs being allowed a take-home pay of around €39,000.

Changes to Stormont rules for constituency staff in 2016 also led to shifts in Sinn Féin policy.

The SDLP called on Sinn Féin to clarify its position, while nationalist commentator Chris Donnelly said the developments would "raise eyebrows" as some Sinn Féin members have "sacrificed professional careers" with higher wages.

In a statement, Sinn Féin said the party reviewed its wage structure in 2016 and recommended a rate for TDs, which is currently €39,000.

"It is a matter for the party's elected representatives whether or not they adhere to the recommendation of the party," a spokesman said.

"The party does not oversee the implementation of this recommendation as it is not mandatory."

But in relation to MLAs, Sinn Féin said all 27 accept a recommended wage of £28,480 before tax.

Sinn Féin said northern MEP Martina Anderson also accepts this wage. It said the recommended wage for the party's three southern MEPs is €39,000 but it remains unclear what wage they accept.

"All Sinn Féin MLAs currently make a voluntary donation which is the equivalent of the net balance of their assembly salary after they take the recommended party wage (£28,480 before tax which is a take home pay of roughly £431 a week)," the spokesman said.

"The northern MEP receives the exact same recommended party wage (£28,480 before tax which is a take home pay of roughly £431 a week) with the balance going to the party.

"MPs are not paid a salary by Westminster and receive the same party wage as the MLAs and MEP."

The spokesman added: "The recommended party wage rate for TDs and MEPs in the south is currently €39,000. The MEPs and TDs have to operate under regulations which restrict politics donations to a maximum of €2,500. TDs and MEPs voluntarily donate this amount to the party.

"They retain the recommended party wage rate for the south and utilise the balance of their salary to develop and expand their constituency services."

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