Stormont yesterday. Two Debates. DUP currently disconnected from the Assembly dont show up for a Debate on Autism. But DUP show up to defend the system where Special Advisors get inflated salaries.
What is a Special Advisor and why are they paid £90,000 a year? And why is DUP, so anxious to cut public spending on “welfare” so anxious to defend this gross over-payment.
Well…Ministers are advised by a permenant Civil Service, theoretically neutral but in practice, they are known to “blind-side” Ministers. The Special Advisor, a member of th same political party as the Minister ensures that this doesnt happen…a bridge or a barrier between Minister and untrustworthy Civil Service. And the Special Advisor keeps the Minister on track with his party’s policy.
I wouldnt trust the mandarins in a Government Department so it is right and proper that the Minister has a friendly face round the decision-making table.
But how is it that the salary of a Special Advisor (SpAd) is in excess of a ministerial salary and at £90,000 is twice the salary of the average MLA.
Each Minister in the Norn Iron Executive has a Special Advisor. That’s DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP and Alliance. Despite being the fifth party in the Executive, the gerrymandered Alliance Party Leader has two SpAds in his ironically named Justice Ministry. And there are eight SpAds in the Office of First Minister/Deputy First Minister….DUP and Sinn Féin.
By any standards, DUP, Sinn Féin and their Alliance poodle look over resourced and over-financed in comparison with UUP and SDLP. That puts the two “minor” parties (sic) and their voters at a disadvantage.
Being Christians of a certain type…American televangelists spring to mind…DUP seem to believe that their salaries and expenses come from GOD, rather than the Taxpayer. After all, it seems inconsistent to advocate saving the Taxpayer money thru cuts to “welfare” and defend this kinda salary.
But can Sinn Féin really defend these salaries.
After all, SF is allegedly egalitarian. Sinn Féin Ministers, MLAs, support staff and Special Advisors are so egalitarian that they insist on being paid the average industrial wage.
The average voter is highly skeptical of Sinn Féin and the average industrial wage. In their own way, Sinn Féin is as fond of the coupons as DUP.
Yet maybe we have reached a turning point. It is hard to see how the voters can fail to be angry at the two major parties. Yet they always seem to get away with it. The only people really turned off by the antics of DUP and SF are moderate voters.
The photograph above has been circulating a lot in the last 24 hours. It should be on every SDLP election pamphlet ahead of the Assembly Election.
SDLP competes for votes with Sinn Féin. I only re-joined SDLP in 2011, so I can only guess at the animosity that exists between SDLP and Sinn Féin in Assembly, in local councils in Derry and Newry. And I can only guess at the animosity between canvassers on the streets of Coalisland and Lurgan.
But SDLP competes for votes with Alliance, cleverly disguised as the nice people in politics (while giving credence to DUP-SF and feeding off them).
In SDLP, we take the view that we should try to work with DUP as elected representatives of Unionism. Yes…obviously. But that should not mean that we believe the choices of unionist voters are not our direct concern.
We must learn to fight DUP at every opportunity. We should not try to facilitate them. We should try to destroy them.
Claire Hanna’s line on the recent loyalist forum is a bit weak for me “Any genuine attempt to move paramilitary gangs away from violence is to be cautiously welcomed but there is something worrying about formalising and co-opting these organisations”. Members of illegal paramilitary organisations have openly formed a group. If members of the IRA openly formed a tea party the DUP would be calling for their arrest. The openness of loyalist paramilitaries in our society should be tackled head on. I could expect SF to choke on criticising armed groups but SDLP should have a free reign. They need to get back to strong moral stance.
In a way Sinn Fein benefit from loyalist paramilitaries being accepted because of course IRA is legitimised by it.
I have heard others say it was very weak . My initial reaction was that it was very under-stated and that surprised me because Claire rarely understates anything 😉