Overend speaks on Future Operations of the NI Assembly and Sinn Féin Expenses

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ULSTER Unionist Assembly Member for Mid-Ulster, Sandra Overend, took the opportunity in Stormont to speak during a lively debate on a Motion regarding the Northern Ireland (Misc. Provisions) Bill on Monday, which was secured by the Ulster Unionist Party.

Speaking after the debate, Sandra said, “The Motion on the Northern Ireland (Misc. Provisions) Bill, secured by the Ulster Unionist Party, which was discussed today is a vitally important one for the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I was fortunate enough to spend some time on the Assembly and Executive Review Committee which considered a number of these issues in detail and I am aware of the debate and sometimes differences of opinion amongst Parties.

“During the debate I welcomed several measures. Firstly, the commitment to end dual mandates is a positive development. Some Parties have been slower than others to end the practice of dual mandates, however, I believe all are committed to it in the short to medium term and we need to ensure that those commitments are carried through.”

Sandra continued, “Secondly, the Bill recognises that political donations to Parties in Northern Ireland need to be looked at sensitively. This Ulster Unionist Party, more than most, has had to deal with the effects of a terrorist campaign and we are therefore fully aware of the heavy price which some have paid in the past for their political support. Although time has moved on and we have relative peace, the fact is that the dissident threat remains severe. The very recent murder of a prison officer from my constituency was a terrible reminder of the capabilities of some of these groups. Therefore, I fully support the continued anonymity of political donors in Northern Ireland, contrary to an amendment the Alliance Party tabled.”

Mrs Overend also addressed Sinn Féin’s continued claiming of expenses, while not taking their seats at Westminster,

“The abhorrent practice of Sinn Féin abstaining from Westminster, while at the same time claiming expenses from that place must stop. Firstly, and most importantly, is the point that the people in the constituencies where Sinn Fein MP’s are elected have no voice at Westminster on critical issues, for example, defence and financial services. I know this only too well from my own constituency in Mid Ulster.

Secondly, if an MP does not take up their seat at Westminster and fully participate in proceedings there, then why should that Party be entitled to the expenses which Sinn Fein draw down? The people of Mid-Ulster may be rightly sceptical about Sinn Féin’s decision to step down its double-jobbing representative in Mid Ulster, if only to boost its party’s expenses intake. We are not talking about insignificant amounts but hundreds of thousands of pounds at taxpayers’ expense for second homes in London, staff costs, administration and expenditure allowances.

“Indeed, this is a timely reminder of the flawed position of Sinn Fein in the lead up to the Mid Ulster By-Election where I hope that the people of my constituency will vote with their feet and elect an MP in Nigel Lutton who will actually represent them as opposed to simply claiming the expenses.”