Fermanagh MLAs racked up over £170,000 in expenses last year, despite not sitting in the Assembly Chamber in the absence of a functioning Executive.
The total expense bill for eight local MLAs from April to September 2017 came to £178,323.25. The figures come as Tuesday marked 12 months since Martin McGuinness announced his resignation as deputy first minister, triggering the collapse of Stormont.
The constituency’s largest expense bill came from the DUP’s Maurice Morrow at £43,698.31. He was among 14 ex-MLAs awarded a resettlement allowance after his election defeat last March. According to Stormont guidelines, an MLA can claim a resettlement allowance if they don’t contest an election, or fail to be re-elected. This equates to one month’s salary for every completed year of service, and is capped at £24,500.
Mr Morrow also clocked up £2,595.19 in winding up expenses, a payment made to former members to allow them to bring their Assembly business to “an orderly close” and includes office costs, rent and rates. A further £16,603.12 was paid to him to cover staffing costs.
Eight MLAs who lost their seats last March, having first been elected in May 2016, were unable to claim as they did not serve a full year in the Assembly. This included the SDLP’s Richie McPhillips who racked up just £9,692.61 in expenses with £3,030.42 paid out to wind up and a further £6,662.19 towards his staff bill.
Sinn Fein’s Sean Lynch claimed £29,989.53 in expenses – of this £8,662.19 was towards running his constituency office and £3,725.04 for travel alongside £17,602.30 for staff. His party colleague Jemma Dolan, first elected last March, was paid £21,001.21. This was made up by payments including £15,706.25 in staffing costs, £4,222.23 in travel and a £1,011.67 office bill.
The lowest amount of £8,027.11 of which £2,090.17 was travel and £5,936.94 in staffing costs was claimed by Sinn Fein’s Colm Gildernew. The older brother of Michelle Gildernew was only selected to take her seat in the Stormont Assembly in June following her election to Westminster. Meanwhile Ms Gildernew claimed £16,414.99 during her time as an MLA last year. This was broken down by £13,564.79 for staff, a £1,407.24 travel allowance, £925.56 in constituency office expenses and £517.40 which included winding up expenses as she transferred from an MLA to MP.
The DUP leader Arlene Foster was paid £21,604.42, the majority of which (£20,920.90) was towards her constituency office and staff along with £625.02 in travel. The Ulster Unionist’s Rosemary Barton received a £27,895.07 and again this was largely towards staff (£19,792.80) along with a further £4,377.23 in office costs and £3,725.04 for travelling.
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