Roy Beggs MLA has accused local DUP MLA’s, Gordon Lyons and Alistair Ross of acting in narrow party self-interest rather than in the public interest when they joined with Sinn Fein to vote down the Specialist Advisers (Amendment) Bill at Stormont at the 2nd Stage.
Roy Beggs MLA said, “I and my Ulster Unionist colleagues were pleased to support Jim Allister’s latest Private members Bill which would have reduced excessive number of eight OFMDFM special advisers (SPADs) and reduced the exorbitant £103,500/y SPAD costs which Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness had increased in 2011.
I would ask the public to note that Gordon Lyons and Alistair Ross, who had voted to kill the Private Member Bill, had acted in narrow party self-interest rather than in the interest of the people of East Antrim”.
In Northern Ireland there are 19 special advisers costing over £2 Million – an average of £103,500. Wales has less than half of that and their average cost last year was £58,000. Scotland has 14 advisors who earn some £73,000 on average.
Sinn Fein and the DUP combined to kill the Bill that would have capped SPAD salaries at £75,000, rather than allow further discussion on it at the committee stage. All other MLAs supported the private members bill.
Roy Beggs, an Ulster Unionist MLA, drew on his Social Development Committee experience of the “Red Sky Affair” to support the other key aspect of the Bill: to submit special advisors to a code of conduct. East Antrim MLA, Gordon Lyons and DUP and SF members opposed this.
The Ulster Unionist MLA said, “During the Committee investigation of the “Red Sky Affair” we eventually acquired a previously withheld report which had recommended a formal disciplinary investigation into the behaviour of Mr Brimstone, a SPAD. However both Minister McCausland and Minister Storey, the subsequent Social Development Ministers did not authorise it”.
The much discredited SPAD involved could not remember many key aspects during Committee questioning. Rather than being investigated, Mr Brimstone has since been promoted to work for the Junior Minister under the auspices of Peter Robinson MLA, the First Minister.
During the debate at Stormont, Gordon Lyons MLA opposed a code of conduct for SPADs and said with regards to discipline “The Bill completely removes the power of Ministers in this matters”.
Roy Beggs MLA said “The failure of the Minister to act is precisely why a code of conduct is need in NI. I am certain that at Westminster, the Minister would have been forced to resign over the “Red Sky Affair” and his Special Adviser’s behaviour would not have been tolerated. Whilst Minister McCausland has now gone, most would have expected his Special Adviser to have been subject to a disciplinary hearing rather than to have been promoted.
To Gordon Lyon and Alistair Ross who voted to kill the Bill I say ‘Shame on you’ ”.
David Hilditch did not vote on the issue.