Sinn Féin expenses under scrutiny
Sinn Fein has defended as fair, open and transparent its claiming of nearly £500,000 in London accommodation allowances for its abstentionist Westminster MPs.
The party said it had not broken any rules through claiming expenses associated with three London properties it rents for use by the five MPs when on business in London. Sinn Fein also denied deliberately inflating its expenses claims.
It was reported at the weekend by the Sunday Telegraph that party president Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness paid £3,600 per month for a property owned by an Irish landlord living in London.
It also reported that Pat Doherty, Michelle Gildernew and Conor Murphy between them paid £5,400 per month for a north London town house.
Another property, a two-bedroom flat, was also rented for occasional use, the newspaper reported.
The Sunday Telegraph went further, claiming that a local estate agent had valued the properties, all of them owned by the same family, at well under what was being claimed by Sinn Fein in allowances.
Sinn Fein has denied this, saying that the expenses claimed included maintenance and running costs.
In total, the five MPs have claimed £437,405 under the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) system, which helps MPs to meet the cost of running a second home, and which was last year worth up to £24,000 per MP, the newspaper reported.
This is in addition to £662,660 Sinn Fein has claimed for travel, office and staffing costs since a compromise was reached between the party and the British government eight years ago over eligibility for office space at Westminster and costs.
The West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, a former party vice-president, accused what he called the ¿Tory-led¿ press of trying to misrepresent the truth.
¿We do not purchase properties at public expense and therefore do not profit from the expenses claimed as of right,¿ he said.
¿Sinn Fein makes no apology for refusing to sit in the British House of Commons. The abstentionist position is the one supported by the vast majority of nationalists and republicans in the six counties. We also make no apology for ensuring that those people who vote for Sinn Fein get the same democratic entitlements as everyone else.¿
He said his party was ¿unique¿ because of its practice of voluntarily publishing its financial accounts annually ¿in the interest of openness and transparency¿.
¿Sinn Fein MPs, MLAs, MEPs and TDs receive an average industrial wage,¿ he said.
¿All other finance goes into providing first class constituency services for the people and the electorate. All waged members of Sinn Fein, including MPs and Ministers, receive the same salary.