There was some speculation earlier this month as to whether DUP ministers, having resigned from Stormont following allegations that a high-ranking member of Sinn Féin was involved in the murder of ex-IRA paramilitary Kevin McGuigan, continued to draw a salary despite refusing to serve the people they were elected to serve.
Speaking to the Irish News, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said that the DUP was making arrangements to return wages earned while ministers were in office.
“If people have got a payment and they return to their posts then they have to return that money, and that’s the arrangements that are in place.”
On the same day, East Derry MP Gregory Campbell suggested salaries had been repaid by cheque, while a statement from DUP headquarters said discussions were taking place with Northern Ireland Assembly authorities.
As the money is paid under legislation by the assembly we have had discussions with the assembly finance authorities about not only stopping future payments but also the repayment of any payments previously made. As a result of those discussions appropriate arrangements are be made to ensure that happens.
But a response from the assembly to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Irish News suggests that no such discussions had taken place.
As at the close of business on October 7 2015 the NI assembly has no correspondence or record of any discussions, nor have any meetings been arranged with the DUP regarding ministerial salaries.
If you’re claiming the moral high ground, it benefits to practice honesty. Failing this, at least get your story straight.
DUP ministers returned to Stormont on Wednesday following the publication of the British government’s assessment into paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. While the assessment was able to confirm suspicions that the Provisional IRA remains operational, the allegation that Sinn Féin was involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan has not borne out.
With Stormont returned to its former glory, the assembly has revealed that DUP ministers have resigned and resumed office more than 20 times between September and October. In the interim, the public health system and other important public services have suffered. Patients, some of whom can’t afford to wait, have been forced to put their health on hold.
Lest we forget, I’ve taken the liberty of updating Simon Hamilton’s Wikipedia page.