N. Ireland Politics

Half of MLAs still double jobbing

Stormont

Over half our assembly members are still sitting on councils even though a new law allows them to stand aside without the need for a by-election.

Around 60 MLAs hold at least two posts , earning the extra £10,000 fee as councillors, a BBC investigation has revealed.

One of them is the Assembly speaker, William Hay who sits on Derry City Council. According to the DUP, he is expected to step down at the end of the summer.

The DUP has been taking steps to phase out some of its dual mandate-holders and the DUP's Nigel Dodds and Sammy Wilson recently stood down from their Belfast council posts.

Others include party leader Peter Robinson, who stood down some time ago, and the MEP Diane Dodds.

But 29 out of the 36 DUP MLAs still sit on councils. They include four MPs, Jeffrey Donaldson, David Simpson, William McCrea and Gregory Campbell, two peers Lord Browne and Lord Morrow, as well as four Ministers, Edwin Poots, Arlene Foster, Nelson McCausland and Robin Newton.

The DUP's Environment Minister Edwin Poots said he is quitting his Lisburn Council post this month. And the party's other ministers and MPs will step down from their councils posts before the end of the month also.

Dual mandates

Mr Poots told the BBC that he did not agree that all MLAs should quit the council pointing out these are part-time posts, instead he suggested that the two posts could complement each other.

Sinn Fein said it is committed to phasing out the dual mandates between councils and Stormont by the end of the current assembly term.

A party spokesman said: "Even before this legislation was passed in late March, Sinn Féin have been phasing out dual mandates involving councillors and MLAs.

"This work will continue in the months ahead and we would envisage this being completed by the time the local government elections take place next year."

John O'Dowd stepped down from Craigavon council on Wednesday leaving nine Sinn Fein MLAs who remain on councils, among them, the Assembly deputy speaker, Francie Molloy.

The Ulster Unionist party has around a dozen MLAs on councils, although Danny Kennedy will quit Newry and Mourne council within days.

Fred Cobain quit Belfast council on Tuesday night and Basil McCrea has already announced his intention to leave Lisburn council as soon as his party agrees a replacement.

There is still no firm date for the departure of two Ulster Unionist ministers sitting on Belfast Council.

Mirror

The health minister Michael McGimpsey and Sir Reg Empey are expected to quit this summer. It is thought that Sir Reg Empey wants to mark his 25th anniversary on the council before going.

The SDLP said five of its 16 MLAs are also councillors but Pat Ramsey will quit Derry City Council this week.

Dolores Kelly said her party was committed to ending dual mandates. She says she will step down in the near future. And she challenged other parties to do the same.

Five of the Alliance Party's seven MLAs are still sitting on councils with only the newly elected MP Naomi Long indicating she is quitting.

The party seems to mirror the DUP's position that MLAs who are not ministers should continue on councils if they wish.

Other MLAs also sitting on councils are the Green Party's Brian Wilson in North Down and the Independent, Gerry McHugh who is on Fermanagh Council.