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Statement by Peter Hain, on the Future of Assembly Salaries (9 January 2006)

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Text: Peter Hain... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Statement by Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on the Future of Salaries and Expenses paid to Assembly Members, (Sunday 9 January 2006)


"We can't have continued paralysis of the political situation. 2006 really is a key year for Northern Ireland because we can't go on as we are with an Assembly that doesn't exist. Members of the legislative Assembly are being paid an average 85,000 each in salaries and expenses, a total cost since suspension of 78m, to do nothing. Now I don't think that tax payers and the many voters that I've spoken to over the past months in Northern Ireland will put up with this for much longer.

I'm not making a threat or imposing any kind of deadline - the people of Northern Ireland are insisting to me, as I know they're insisting to their elected politicians, that they want them to do their jobs. And they are saying we can't keep paying our MLA's a total of 85,000 a year when they won't take responsibility for government.

If we haven't seen progress by the summer I'm going to have to take a decision over continued payment of salaries and allowances. I hope that this will focus minds amongst Assembly members to say we can't go on like this because the people will not tolerate it. I'm not trying to impose some artificial deadline - the deadline is imposing itself by virtue of the fact that we can't continue this forever.

Voters didn't elect you to sit around and not do your jobs - people elected you to represent them in an Assembly and I want to see that Assembly up and running and the people of Northern Ireland want that as well."


Peter Hain also indicated the need for trust to be built to allow political negotiations to be successful. He said:


"We've seen tremendous progress over recent months and years. The IRA statement last July, the decommissioning of its arsenal of weaponry in September, the fact that we've seen more jobs in Northern Ireland than ever before, more prosperity and more peace than for generations, whatever it's imperfections.

But trust has to be built and clearly it's not a given, it doesn't exist at the moment. What matters is that people start negotiating and talking to each other and this will begin when Dermot Ahern and I, in the light of the IMC report in early February, meet with the parties. Then we can begin to see where people are.

There's no certainty about the exact form of the outcome, though the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of the whole of the island of Ireland and in particular, from my point of view, the people of Northern Ireland, provides the basic framework which we need to address. Exactly what form the political negotiations will take to get to the end objective of shared Government for which the politicians were elected by the people, remains to be seen.

We can certainly expect the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to be meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the way forward and the Prime Minister himself will make a major speech on Northern Ireland soon as he is very focused on resolving this current situation."


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