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89% of people agree with Stormont politicians' pay cut - poll

It is understood Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris will announce the 27 per cent cut today in a statement to the House of Commons.
Digital Staff

There is overwhelming support for the cut to salaries of politicians at Stormont amongst Irish News readers.

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris has announced the cut today in a statement to the House of Commons. It is speculated that the annual salaries of £51,500 will be cut by 27%. 

He has also extended the deadline for calling a fresh Stormont election by six weeks, with an option to extend it by a further six weeks, and also cut the pay of Assembly members. This would mean an election could be delayed until early March or into April.

Some 89% of respondents said they were in favour of MLAs having a pay cut in the absence of a functioning Assembly.

A total of 723 people responded to the Irish News poll with 6 per cent disagreeing with the move and 5% saying they didn't care. 

Mr Heaton-Harris confirmed he would be “asking for this House’s support to enable me to reduce MLA salaries appropriately”.

He said: “When so many are concerned about the cost of living in Northern Ireland, I know the public there will welcome a further measure I intend to address…

“People across Northern Ireland are frustrated that the members of the legislative assembly (MLA) continue to draw a full salary whilst not performing all of the duties they were elected to do. I will thus be asking for this House’s support to enable me to reduce MLA salaries appropriately.

Michelle O’Neill questioned why Mr Heaton-Harris had not targeted the pay cut at DUP MLAs who were refusing to engage with the devolved institutions.

“I think it would have been more effective to target that towards those people that are actually failing to turn up and join all the rest of the team that actually want to be here to make politics work,” she said.

Ms O’Neill said Northern Ireland was now facing the prospect of an “unadulterated Tory budget” being imposed on the region.

“He (Mr Heaton-Harris) has taken powers obviously to set a budget that allows the lights to be kept on but doesn’t allow any new decisions, doesn’t allow us to actually plan for the future, doesn’t allow us to invest and prioritise our health service, doesn’t allow us to deal with the issue of public sector pay. So, I don’t think that’s a good position.

“So, the DUP have landed us in a position where we have an unadulterated Tory budget with no filter in terms of local decision-making, no filter in terms of local ministers taking decisions in the interest of the people that live here.”

Mr Heaton-Harris told MPs in the Commons that the UK Government is “absolutely clear that the consent principle governs the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.”

He said: “I must take limited but necessary steps to protect Northern Ireland’s public finances and the delivery of public services.

“So, as has been done before, the legislation I introduce will also enable Northern Ireland departments to support public service delivery, make a small number of vital public appointments, like to the Northern Ireland policing board, and address the serious budgetary concerns I’ve already mentioned.”

He added: “There are some who have called for joint authority of Northern Ireland in recent days and let me just say this will not be considered.

“The UK Government is absolutely clear that the consent principle governs the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, under which Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK. We will not support any arrangements that are inconsistent with that principle.”

Read More: UK Government to extend Stormont election deadline and cut MLA pay

Ms O’Neill said the uncertainty over an election was not good enough.

“What we now have are new deadlines, multiple deadlines, in which he may or may not call an election,” she told reporters at Stormont.

“So this is not a good enough space for people to be in and I think the fundamental question today has to be around what’s next?

“What do the British Government intend to do to find an agreed way forward on the protocol?”



Sir Jeffrey told the Northern Ireland Secretary that courage, understanding, and compromise are “good words” but what the people of Northern Ireland need is “a solution that sees the institutions restored on the basis that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom”.

He added: “And the silence from some when Sinn Fein held no Government in Northern Ireland for three years, they kept us without a government and nothing was said, nothing was said about removing the Sinn Fein veto.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long welcomed “clarity” from Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris.

However, she said it has not changed the “pressing need for reform of the institutions”.

“Today’s clarity from the Secretary of State is welcome, particularly around the powers of civil servants relating to finances, given the perilous state of our public services. Any further drift would have made an already rudderless ship even more unstable,” she said.

“However, the overall picture has not changed. As long as any one party can take the institutions hostage, they will.

“Therefore we need reform of the Assembly and executive to stop that happening, or else we could easily be back in this same situation again in a matter of months.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the focus must be on restoring the Stormont institutions.

“With the Secretary of State having pushed the idea of an election and the prospect of a deal between the British Government and the EU on the protocol getting closer every day, the DUP has no excuse for continuing their boycott of the Stormont institutions.

"They have no justifiable reason for hanging about while people’s homes get colder and their cupboards get emptier,” he said.

“I welcome the move to cut MLAs pay, let me be clear – SDLP MLAs want to be at Stormont every day working to deal with the huge number of issues impacting people in our communities, but while they are prevented from doing a key part of their jobs and so many families here are struggling, we understand the frustration the public is feeling.”

Senior DUP member Edwin Poots said cutting the salaries of MLAs would have absolutely “no influence whatsoever” on his party’s stance on boycotting Stormont until changes are made to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The issue for us is a principle, so cutting wages is neither here nor there in terms of the position that we adopt, it will have no influence whatsoever on our position,” the South Belfast MLA told BBC Radio Ulster.

“Should they entirely take the salaries away, that’s entirely up to the Secretary of State, but what he really needs to focus on is finding a solution to the problem that has been created, a problem that ensures that our assembly would be taking laws, our people will be taking laws, passed in the European Parliament, which would then be applied in Northern Ireland where we have no scrutiny, where we have no role, we have no impact – that’s legislation without representation."

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney urged the UK authorities to “make use” of the renewed opportunity to engage positively with the EU.

“My view on this has been clear and consistent,” Mr Coveney said in a statement.

“The people of Northern Ireland need functioning institutions, working to improve their daily lives.

“The Secretary of State’s announcement provides further space for early substantive progress in discussions between the EU and UK on the issues of most concern to people and business in NI.

“I urge the UK authorities to make use of this renewed opportunity to engage positively, and with real urgency, in the knowledge that the European Commission has listened carefully to the concerns of people across Northern Ireland, including and especially Unionists.”

 MLAs have had their pay slashed before during a period of political limbo at Stormont.

In 2018, pay was cut by 27% following a review by the former assembly chief executive Trevor Reaney.

Karen Bradley, the then Northern Ireland secretary, imposed a pay cut in two stages.

Meanwhile, the secretary of state is also set to give extra powers to Stormont civil servants to enable them to run the north's rudderless public services.

He is also expected to confirm plans to pass a budget for Stormont.



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