Assembly members must still be paid, say DUP and Sinn Féin

Frustration and disappointment at collapse of talks but MLAs plan to work all summer

DUP leader Arlene Foster with party colleague Simon Hamilton speaking at Stormont Castle following the failure of talks aimed at establishing a new executive. Photograph: Alan Lewis/PhotopressBelfast.co.uk

DUP leader Arlene Foster with party colleague Simon Hamilton speaking at Stormont Castle following the failure of talks aimed at establishing a new executive. Photograph: Alan Lewis/PhotopressBelfast.co.uk

 

Northern Ireland’s 90 Assembly members should continue to be paid through the summer despite the collapse of the Stormont talks, the DUP and Sinn Féin have insisted.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland leader, Michelle O’Neill, said the Assembly members were entitled to their annual £49,500 salaries.

The leaders separately said that MLAs would continue to work throughout the summer and represent their constituents ahead of the next expected attempt in September to reinstate the Northern Executive and Assembly.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland politicians expressed their frustration and disappointment at the failure of the negotiations.

DUP leader Ms Foster said work should continue during the summer to increase the prospects of a deal in the early autumn.

“We are going to keep working at it through the summer and hopefully we can come to an agreement later on in the year,” she said.

“We are certainly up for an agreement, we are up for devolution,” she added.

Ms O’Neill described the collapse of the talks as a “monumental failure on behalf of Theresa May”.

“She has set back decades of work that has been done here throughout the years and it’s a consequence, as we all know, of the DUP supporting the prime minister and the prime minister in turn supporting the DUP,” she said.

Depressing commentary

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the most depressing commentary about the “pause” in the talks was “that no one will be surprised by it, least of all the public”.

“However, just because we are well-versed in the hugely frustrating pattern of these talks, it shouldn’t make us any less angry at what amounts to another failure,” he added.

“People need to know, this deal was doable last week, it was doable today [Tuesday] and the very same deal will be doable in the autumn,” added Mr Eastwood.

“The endless delay is not down to detail – it is down to narrow party political interest. People need to know – there hasn’t been one thought given by the DUP or Sinn Féin to the issues of health, education or the economy.”

“Building a new Ireland will never be possible if our only tactic is tearing apart relationships and institutions – we only build that new Ireland by building political partnership and broadening our political appeal,” said Mr Eastwood.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said the public was losing faith in northern politicians. “The biggest failure in this talks process is again the health waiting list spiralling out of control, the headmasters who don’t have budgets for their schools and the general loss of trust and respect for politicians in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Failure of parties

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the suspension of the talks reflected “the failure of the two largest parties to face up to the responsibilities they have been given by the electorate”.

He said that whatever the differences of the DUP and Sinn Féin, they needed to reflect on the damage being done to the economy and public services from a prolonged political impasse.

“It is sad and frustrating Northern Ireland will not have any coherent government for most of 2017. This absence also comes at a time when we need our own voice around Brexit – a challenge that affects this region more acutely than any other,” he added.

Dr Farry said Alliance remained available for engagement in any talks format at any time. “Northern Ireland only works best when we have devolution and control over our local affairs. Given the divided nature of our society, we need shared government and recognition of our interdependence,” he said.