The Assembly Commission is not seeking to recover £700,000 claimed by Sinn Féin MLAs and paid to Research Services Ireland. or any other public money claimed by republican representatives and paid to various cultural societies as part of their expenses.
Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) MLA Jim Allister raised the matter in the wake of two television programmes aired by the state broadcaster in late 2014, that implied such claims were made and that they were inappropriate.
The Assembly Commission, however, has now said there was nothing wrong with the claims.
Mr Allister asked about what he called “Sinn Féin’s payment of rent to non-existent cultural societies.”
The Commission replied: “The Commission reviewed the content of the two BBC Spotlight programmes. That review confirmed that payments for rent, as reported in the programme, were made for admissible expenditure. As such, no recovery has been sought.”
The TUV leader also asked about “£700,000 claimed by Sinn Fein MLAs and paid to Research Services Ireland.”
“The Commission reviewed the content of the two BBC Spotlight programmes. That review confirmed that payments for research services, as reported in the programme, were made for admissible expenditure up to and including the 2012/13 financial year. As such, no recovery has been sought. No payments to Research Services Ireland for work undertaken after 31 December 2012 have been made as a result of changes to the system of financial support for Members that were introduced by the Independent Financial Review Panel from 1 January 2013,” was the response.
Eamonn McCann of the People Before Profit called for an independent investigation.
“This is part of a Stormont culture of ‘anything goes,’ generated by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) along with parties which regard themselves as untouchable because Stormont would supposedly collapse if they weren’t sustained in office,” he said.
“The main parties are taking the rest of us for fools. The people should give them a short, sharp shock on May 5. They should send in a team from People Before Profit to shine a light into the murkv corners where the dodgy deals are done.
“All claim-forms and other documentation relating to the hundreds of thousands in public money paid out to Research Services Ireland should be published alongside the names of the MLAs involved,” he added.