So, with devolution barely a week old, our elected representatives have turned their attention to the most pressing issue facing Norn Iron – their own pay. It looks very much like there will be a hefty hike in MLAs’ pay, with a formal review looming. This of course led to the expected populist tub-thumping on Radio Ulster this morning, with callers to Nolan and Dunseith taking umbrage. Two arguments were adduced in favour of a rise – first, that Peter Vain was making them do it, and second, that MLAs hadn’t had a pay rise in five years. That is, they hadn’t had a pay rise during the period the Assembly was suspended. Aye right.
But that’s coming up. For the present, our beautifully groomed proconsul’s last executive act before handing over power last week was to up MLAs’ office expenses from £48,000 to £70,000 for each of our 108 Stormont reps. This will enable our public representatives to better serve their constituents by putting more family members on the payroll. I suppose this counts as affirmative action for our political class. It also sheds a rather different light on the DUP’s two offices in Comber, given the joint statement from Hamilton and McIlveen that party policy was to claim every last penny in available expenses.
Who says nobody gets anything out of Stormont?