LOCAL MLAs have defended their decisons to claim thousands of pounds in travel expenses despite the Belfast Assembly being out of action for nearly three years.
It has been revealed that almost £20,000 in Assembly travel expenses has been claimed by Fermanagh based MLAs over a 12 month period.
The highest assembly travel figure of £6633.42 was claimed by Sinn Fein MLA Jemma Dolan. Also claiming over £6,200 each were Sean Lynch MLA and Rosemary Barton MLA. Arlene Foster MLA did not claim for Assembly travel over the period April 2018-March 2019.
As the Stormont stalemate rolls on there has been public outcry over the lack of devolved government. In light of expense allowances the Herald contacted Fermanagh based MLAs to ask how they justify claiming thousands of pounds in expenses to travel to Stormont during a period when the Assembly has not sat.
Responding Sinn Fein MLAs Jemma Dolan and Sean Lynch said they were firmly committed to the political institutions: “That requires intensive political talks, a commitment from the governments to implement previous agreements and an end to the DUP’s denial of rights.”
The two Sinn Fein MLAs insisted they continued to carry out valuable work despite Stormont being mothballed: “Despite the collapse of the political institutions all Sinn Fein MLAs continue to provide first-class constituency services.
“Whether Sinn Fein representatives are paid or not we will continue to work hard to deliver for the people we represent.”
Rosemary Barton MLA commented, “I wish to explain that the calculation of travel arrangements by the Stormont authorities for MLAs is a poorly thought out process.”
“Given that we are still MLAs, it is important that we continue to be briefed on important matters of public concern,” she noted, “We also need to discuss these matters with Department officials.”
Arlene Foster MLA was asked why travel expenses were not claimed and if there is separate funding for security and travel arrangement.
A DUP spokesman said, “Arlene Foster’s travel and security arrangements for Arlene are a matter for the PSNI. They do not comment on individual cases.”
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