Sucking up Stormont’s deadlocked politics for £90k

One of the great things about not being able to scrutinise the Stormont administration and having everyone in government is that there is little brake on stuff like this

The information released on Monday shows that last year Mr Robinson’s two main Spads – barrister Richard Bullick and former accountant Timothy Johnston – were being paid the absolute maximum for a Spad, £91,809 A third DUP Spad, former lawyer Emma Pengelly, is also being paid the top rate of £91,809.

The fourth DUP Spad – who at that point was Gavin Robinson – was being paid £75,000. The three Sinn Fein Spads at the time were also being well paid, although none of them were on the maximum salary. Dara O’Hagan was being paid £87,812, Vincent Parker (who has now left) was also getting £87,812, while Aine McCabe was getting £84,054.

Sinn Fein says that its Spads only keep ‘the average industrial wage’ and pay the rest of their salary to the party.

Under the Belfast Agreement OFMdFM was originally given 3 SpAds, but since ST Andrews a fourth has been added. Missing in these accounts is an eighth, Sinn Fein’s Leo Green who took a private settlement from the party months before the date of the informational release.

Stormont has 19 Spads – more than any other devolved region in the UK, even though Northern Ireland has by far the smallest population. Interestingly one of the DUP’s gripes against David Trimble was the sheer size of OFMdFM, and department which still has very few direct executive functions.

For comparison with central government, Number 10 had 18 roughly about the same time. No one could suggest that OFMdFM is an equivalent to the PM’s office, and nor could anyone seriously suggest that many of those named above could find jobs in the private sector at equivalent rates.

Indeed, you have to ask really what any of the folk there actually get to do since OFMdFM’s most senior function seems to be blocking rival ministers getting anything to the Executive table.

UPDATE: Here’s the paper trail of just how long it took to get OFMdFM to answer the question (several years after Cameron pledged to make this information default public information in 201o)


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty