A tiny insight into how Sinn Fein MLAs make their huge donations to the party?

If you missed this, it’s worth noting in passing

Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA Phil Flanagan told the High Court last week that he gets to keep only £2,000 a month of his £48,000-a-year assembly salary and that people within Sinn Féin “have access” to his bank account.

Mr Flanagan made the claim to support his case for not having enough money to pay substantial libel damages to former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott.

The Sinn Féin MLA is challenging Stormont’s former insurance company over its decision not to pay £48,000 damages on his behalf. The insurers have made two previous pay-outs but refused to settle Mr Flanagan’s damages on the basis that he defamed a fellow MLA. Judgment in the case has been reserved.

However, while giving evidence last week, Mr Flanagan told the court that all Sinn Féin MLAs made a “contribution” to the party – in line with its policy of paying an ‘industrial wage’ of around £24,000.

However the Irish News reported yesterday that the party’s account contracted that picture:

“All Sinn Féin MLAs have personal bank accounts.

“Sinn Féin MLAs receive the average wage and choose to make a voluntary contribution to Sinn Féin to employ support staff and enhance constituency services.

“All donations made are reported to the Electoral Commission.”

That hardly makes sense, unless you consider that all MLAs earn the average industrial wage but that SF then donates a big chunk of it to the party. One of those Orwellian moments when meaning has to be bent out of shape to fit in with the necessary account.

If Mr Flanagan is right about the way this mysterious relationship works, he’s going to have a hard time proving that responsibility for it lies with the party in court since he owns the account and is ultimately responsible for how his own money is spent.

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  • Brian O’Neill

    If Sinn Fein is registered as a non profit then does this mean they are claiming the 25% gift aid on these donations?

  • Old Mortality

    Brian
    It would surely have to be registered first as a charity and I don’t believe that political parties qualify for that status. Of course, it is possible that SF could use a charity as a front for receiving the donations in a form that can avail of Gift Aid.

  • barnshee

    Presumably the salary is subject to PAYE taxation– what the MLA does with what is left is his/her own business ( the loss of the “research” scam will however take a bit of making up)

  • barnshee

    To be a charity, an organisation must be established for exclusively
    charitable purposes. This means that each purpose must fall within one or more of the 12 descriptions of purpose in the Charities Act and be for the public benefit. An organisation with a political purpose cannot be charitable

  • Nevin

    “You can claim back 25p every time an individual donates £1 to your charity or community amateur sports club (CASC). This is called Gift Aid.

    You must be recognised as a charity or CASC for tax purposes.” .. source

    Registered CASCs

  • Chris

    I was wondering if £24000 was the average industrial salary after tax and NI (that’s National Insurance Phil) or are some animals more equal than others?

  • PeterBrown

    Also Gift Aid by an individual cannot exceed the tax they pay and (broadly speaking) cannot be claimed where services are provided in exchange which I thought was the whole point of this arrangment so even if they are charitable (which is not the case I believe) there would be a limit on how much Gift Aid they could claim

  • Jollyraj

    I’m not at all sure whether SF is actually a Non Profit organization

  • Robin Keogh

    As far as i know the system works like this. The TD is paid as normal and all deductions are taken out such as tax etc. From the remainder the rep gets the equivilant of the average industrial wage which is 34k euro. The balance is then used to fund the running and staffing of that individuals constituency office.

  • Neil

    I remember many years ago on this very site the most common response to SF’s average industrial wage was to rubbish the suggestion, saying it was just a load of lies. Fast forward a bit and in the face of the evidence that the AIW is not lies the suggestion moved on to what the wheeze was, was it legal, was there some scam involved. Fast forward to the current day and it becomes “how is the money paid? They said the Shinner hands the money over, but he says they have access to his bank account.” Grasping at an ever thinning bunch of straws.

    Here’s how I see things: The employees pay tax and get their wages. They are at that point entitled to do whatever they want with the money. Likewise with the access to bank accounts, it’s entirely your own decision to allow a third party access to your account. I know the furrowed brow comes into play at the idea of a group of politicians not lining their own pockets to the greatest degree possible, I suspect that may be down to the qualities of some of your own politicians. Certainly some Unionist politicians appear to have done very well out of the public purse.

    SF say they take the excess money over and above a normal wage and use that for the benefit of the people who vote for them. This would seem in keeping with a socialist party. The fact is that if anyone could point out where this was in any way against the law, or untrue, the thread count on slugger would be ticking up at a rate of knots. It’s kind of funny that in the end not having your snout in the trough to the degree of everyone else is actually enough to attract the majority of the criticism.

  • hugh mccloy

    No Robin expenses are claimed for the day to day running of the offices, if SF need a top up to run the office from politicians wages thats a very hefty admin bill.

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont think expenses cover staff wages

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    If indeed Sinn Fein activists do make “voluntary” gifts to the party from their wages that is a matter for the individuals in question. ( I expect if they chose not to hand the dosh over to HQ they might not last too long in their job – something that adds a peculiar complexion to a ‘voluntary’ act)

    What of course they can’t do is then say when presented with a bill ‘I can’t pay because I’ve already spent all my money somewhere else’.

    Sinn Fein people do not ‘earn the average industrial wage’. To say they do implies they work for SF. They do not.

    As MLAs or TDs they work for the public and ‘earn’ exactly what every other similar public representative does. How they then spend their wages, or are encouraged to spend them, is, as I’ve already said, something they must take responsibility for themselves.

  • Robin Keogh

    The policy has been in place long before SF started to win in big seat numbers. It is something that has been discussed and reviewed plenty of times so anybody hoping to get a seat under the SF banner are fully aware in advance of the pay policy. People can if they choose resign from the party and become independent which means they would get to keep their full salary. However, nobody seems to be interested in doing so.

    You are correct, SF people are employed by the electorate and are paid the same wage as all other elected reps. However, they dont spend it on themselves, they share it to create further employment and serve their constituencies. Reps live off the average industrial wage.

  • Disdain

    Surely the average industrial wage is £24,000 minus tax and national insurance contributions?

  • hugh mccloy

    Unless this has changed, TDs are allowed to employ one secretarial assistant and one parliamentary assistant (PA), while senators can employ one secretarial assistant. Assistants are paid between €23,180 and €44,726 a year, while PAs earn between €41,092 and €52,200.

  • chrisjones2

    But then why do Sf charge taxpayers more for the work done? Why not be honest and just claim the average wage?

  • chrisjones2

    Great. Do they pay it to the party or donate it to a charity and claim tax relief?

    What about the cases where members have claimed benefits and then said that they didn’t make false benefit claims because the party took all their money and they didnt have a choice in it?

  • chrisjones2

    So given all the bogus charities SF were using to get rent money paid to them, are these gifts made to the parties or bogus charities and is tax relief then claimed?

  • chrisjones2

    ..but it can be a historical society

    and why do SF charge more for staff that they actually pay them and then pocket the rest for the party

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Where are these “further employment” opportunities advertised? What types of jobs are availability, what skillsets are sought? As the source funding is taxpayer money do they comply with fair and other employment regulations?

    Is there published accounts following the ‘donations’ through to the pay packets of those employed as a result of these funds? Are these jobs’ remuneration also set at the ‘average industrial wage’ level.

    Btw, ending up with £24k in your pocket is pretty fancy accounting. The average UK wage is at present around £26.5k before tax and other statutory deductions.

  • Neil

    Great. Do they pay it to the party or donate it to a charity and claim tax relief?

    I understand from their various statements they pay it to the party. As PAYE it’s already been taxed.

    What about the cases where members have claimed benefits and then said that they didn’t make false benefit claims because the party took all their money and they didnt have a choice in it?

    Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. Ergo, what about ’em?

  • Old Mortality

    Robin
    For the sake of clarity, does the TD retain the post-tax salary of someone earning the ‘average industrial wage’? I don’t know how much TD’s are paid but I’d be surprised if there was much left for the party he or she is allowed to keep €34,000 ‘in the hand’.
    It also seems inequitable that a TD with a family retains exactly the same as a single person.

  • Ciarán

    You’re contradicting yourself Jarl… the source funding is as you rightly point out a voluntary donation. It is not tax payer funded.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The only question I have about the AIW is whether or not the administration staff also claim the average industrial wage when their expenses are paid. If they claim a higher wage…..well. ……

  • Jollyraj

    It is a very, very big slice that the party is taking for itself, according to Flanagan. I doubt if even the protection racketeers in the IRA or their Loyalist counterparts demanded that much from the various individuals they extorted. This is very different, of course, but surely Flanagan could just opt not to voluntarily give up half his salary until he pays the legal settlement?

  • Robin Keogh

    Hi Old, i dont know is the honest answer. A TD gets paid around 80k plus expenses, after tax that probable boils down to around 60k. Those with families have tax allowances and child benifit etc. to suplement their income obviously but you make a good point regarding the equitability of the situation.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ya but the money left over from the TD salary can be used to man a second office and clinic in a constituency, esp large rural constituencies like wicklow where I am.

  • Robin Keogh

    If you copy and paste that in an email to SF HQ I am sure they will answer all your queries.

  • Robin Keogh

    Lol, u crack me up sometimes

  • hugh mccloy

    So they do get expenses to run a office why did you try and bluff at the start, let be correct here, Ireland is not that big a country that it needs a gravy train. if SF want to run their own business on top of that thats their call and they do

  • hugh mccloy

    charge more to pay less and siphon off the rest. Really simple, this Flanagan case could finally open the tax office doors into SF accounting

  • Robin Keogh

    Hugh, there was no bluff. I have no real info on td salaries and expenses. Not something i have paid a lot of attention to. Regarding SF, as i said, as far as i know the excess monies are used to run premises in the constituencies involved. Now, the policy is no secret and if it bothers you so much or if you think something dodgy is going on it shouldnt be too hard to research it if u have the time.

  • hugh mccloy

    Now you are saying you don’t know what you are talking about re expenses, hard not to play the man when he is staring into nowhere while holding the ball.

  • hugh mccloy

    If money like this was being filtered out by anyone else you can be sure if SF could not join the train they would do their best to stop it

  • Robin Keogh

    Grand so

  • chrisjones2

    One got off on that basis didn’t he

  • chrisjones2

    Mini Slabs all over the place?

  • barnshee

    No they won`t— already tried

  • Robin Keogh

    Try sinnfein.ie financial accounts

  • babyface finlayson

    Robin
    That is a very tenuous use of the word voluntary would you not say?
    If you want to be a rep that is the policy,if you don’t like it you can always quit…voluntarily!

  • Ian James Parsley

    If Mr Flanagan actually *receives* £2000 a month in his hand, that equates to an annual pre-tax salary of £30,755 – more than 25% *above* the average industrial wage.

    Of course, MLAs below retirement age also make pension contributions. So if he is receiving £2000 a month in his hand as an MLA, that equates to a pre-tax, pre-contribution wage of £34,400 – around 40% above average.

    Perhaps someone in Sinn Féin or the Inland Revenue could confirm, in the interests of transparency? We wouldn’t want people claiming to live on the average wage when in fact their pay packet is 40% above with the rest going to the organisation which got them the job in the first place, would we?

  • Brendan Heading

    The base salary of an MLA is £48,000. Subtracting 11.5% pension contributions, this is a net monthly salary of £2,654.48

    Flanagan claims he keeps £2000/month. Phil therefore gifts £7853.76/year to Sinn Féin.

    Multiply this up to 29 MLAs and you are talking about a floor of just under £228,000 per year being donated to the party. I say floor, because many Sinn Féin MLAs are on twice that salary or more. Martin McGuinness as FM will be on £120,000/year which is net around £5,617.14. From Martin, SF receives £43,405 per year.

  • Brendan Heading

    Yes, everyone is subject to income tax on their gross income. You can’t donate part of it to a political party before tax is paid on it. I’m not sure if Assembly members are PAYE but I believe they are. Tony Blair famously recounted in his last dispatch box appearance that he received a P45.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Worth being clear again – because Gerry was at it on RTÉ last night – Mr Flanagan absolutely does NOT give up “half his salary” or “earn the average industrial wage”. He would be paying 20% of most of it in income tax, another 11.5% in pension contributions, and of course a good whack more for national insurance.

    His income is 25%+pension (or 40%) ABOVE the average industrial worker’s.

    This is leaving aside that the amount he hands over to SF is not allocated to public services but in fact re-invested in maintaining his job at elections and assisting his work – all of which the average industrial worker would have to pay for out of their already considerably lower take-home pay packet.

  • barnshee

    Insufficient detail SF not a public body declines FOI requests

  • Robin Keogh

    But if there was any suspicion of impropriety would the authorities, the media or the relevent government bodies not be on to it by now? Its not as if they dont harrass SF any chance they get.

  • Robin Keogh

    I asked some colleagues today what the story is regarding TD pay. A TD gets paid 87k, after taxes that works out at about 57k. The TD takes a flat 34k in pay. the remainder is used to either fund a second office in the constituency or it is spread acroos the constituency between the various cumann decided by the comhairle ceantar. In the latter case the monies are usually used to fund the election campaigns of the various councillors across the ELA’s.