Irony-free Sinn Féin MLA to repay £900 postage bill

The BBC reports that Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has agreed to repay nearly £900 in postage costs claimed from Northern Ireland Assembly allowances.  The cost relates to a circular letter sent in June to over 1000 households in the Drumragh electoral ward in Omagh, County Tyrone, complaining that “the Tories are robbing the assembly and every government department of a workable and sustainable budget”.  For which the Sinn Féin MLA subsequently claimed the costs back from charged the costs to public funds… [Update It looks like pre-paid NI Assembly envelopes may have been used]

From the BBC report

He had sent some of his constituents letters urging them to “stand united together against Tory cuts”.

The rules say Stormont allowances must not be used to purchase or post items of a political or personal nature.

They also prohibit charging the assembly for identical circulars sent to a number of addresses.

Mr McElduff posted his letters in June to hundreds of households in the Drumragh electoral ward in Omagh, County Tyrone.

The letters highlighted the lack of maintenance for street lights and potholes.

The Sinn Féin MLA claimed “the Tories are robbing the assembly and every government department of a workable and sustainable budget”.

The BBC report notes that, following a complaint from UUP MLA Ross Hussey, the NI Assembly Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain “found that the letters were circulars, so should not have been charged to the assembly”.

The NI Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges’ report on the complaint notes

  • The total cost to the taxpayer of sending the letters, inclusive of VAT but exclusive of staff and other costs, was between £876.77 and £899.91.
  • Mr McElduff is willing to repay the cost of sending the letters if it is found that his actions were in breach of the Code of Conduct.

5.         Mr McElduff told the Commissioner that when he decided to send the letters he did not consider them to be circulars.  Mr McElduff said that they were an attempt to engage with the constituents of the Drumragh Ward on issues that were of importance to them.  However, when the Commissioner referred to the definition of a circular in paragraph 28.12 of the Handbook (set out above) Mr McElduff  said that he would ‘want to reflect’ on whether the letters were within that definition.    He said he had taken a conscious decision to use first-class envelopes for all the letters because it ‘was a better message to the receiving party than to send a second-class envelope’.  Mr McElduff stated that if he was found to have breached the rules he would regret that and that he would be willing to repay any improper expenditure.

6.         The Commissioner has told the Committee that he has no doubt that the letters issued by Mr McElduff were circulars as defined in paragraph 28.12 of the handbook.  As stationery supplied by the Assembly Office Resources team must not be used to issue circulars the Commissioner is satisfied that Mr McElduff contravened the provisions of the Handbook and so breached the Code of Conduct. [added emphasis throughout]

The committee report ends by reminding MLAs of the rules

The Committee takes this opportunity to remind Members that stationery supplied by the Assembly Office Resources team must not be used to issue circulars.  The cost of purchasing and posting items of a political or personal nature must not be claimed from OCE under any circumstances.  In fact, all expenditure from OCE must be wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred by Members in relation to their role as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, as opposed to any personal capacity or in a party political role, or in any other official role. [added emphasis]

As for standing “united together against Tory cuts”…

“The recent deal between the parties ties the hands of the Northern Ireland Executive in the face of further and deeper Tory austerity cuts in the future” [Unite the union]

[Keep her lit, Barry! – Ed]  After all, someone else is paying the fuel bill…

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  • Robin Keogh

    Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrell

  • willieric

    Did Barry really write…..”the Tories are robbing the Assembly…”? If this is true then it is indeed ironic.

  • Reader

    No big deal then Robin; you would do the same yourself?

  • chrisjones2

    ….yes …scraping it to misuse public money for party purposes

  • Nevin

    Robin, as SF support the Right2Change campaign, perhaps Barry will get a little bit back.

  • Robin Keogh

    Yes, if i nade a mistake i would indeed rectify it

  • hugh mccloy

    “nade” *Made

  • Chingford Man

    You don’t mean the Northern Bank job? Didn’t the chuckies of Slugger try to tell us back in 2004 that the IRA had nothing to do with it?

  • Reader

    What are the chances that you would accidentally send out hundreds of political leaflets using your employer’s office supplies and expenses system?

  • Robin Keogh

    If i thought it was allowed i would do it and if it was then pointed out to me that i was wrong i would rectify it. As he did. Maybe look into his past and see if there is a pattern of similar behaviour? You know reader, holding hatred and bitterness towards other people is like drinking poisin and waiting for the other person to drop down.

  • Robin Keogh

    No capital needed, its just ‘made’

  • Mike the First

    Yep, that’s old Barry “Radar” McElduff alright Robin…

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont even know what that means

  • John

    So if it was morally wrong, but you thought you could get away with it you would chance your arm like our Barry?

  • Robin Keogh

    Thats a big jump when you are desperate. If i thought i could do something harmless which fell within the rules of my employment and i deemed that action necessarry to a productive end, i would carry out tge action. Morality is subjective legality is not.

  • chrisjones2

    Now no …just cause the Shinner have been caught again don’t tease them,. They are too valuable to HM Government to upset them too much

  • Surveyor

    Fecking hell, from postage stamps to the Northern Bank job. Talk about desperate.

  • Mike the First

    It means that Barry is a master at scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Google him.

  • Robin Keogh

    I did and it shows him to be a popular educated fella, what did i miss?

  • Hugh Davison

    What is this thread about? I had to plough through pages of reports from various bodies to discover that an MLA mistakenly claimed NINE HUNDRED POUNDS (gosh, golly) on postage and agreed to pay it back. Net cost to the taxpayer ZERO POUNDS. Again, what is this discussion for? Oh, I get it. It’s Baker and Shinners.

  • USA

    Anyone know who paid for 40’000 postcards the DUP sent out in East Belfast attacking the Alliance party?

  • Reader

    Robin Keogh: If i thought it was allowed i would do it and if it was then pointed out to me that i was wrong i would rectify it.
    Well, I understand you are employed at present. Do you think you are allowed to spend hundreds of Euros on a political leafleting campaign at your employer’s expense? How mind-bogglingly stupid would you have to be to imagine such a thing?

  • Reader

    “gosh, golly”. Only £900:
    http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-rates-and-how-to-claim
    Is that the sort of mistake you might make, or are you smarter than Barry McElduff?

  • John

    Robin Keogh: If i thought it was allowed i would do it and if it was then pointed out to me that i was wrong i would rectify it.

    Sinn Fein as a party who have been vociferous about the Tories raiding the public purse … the fact that SF have been doing the very same thing when they thought they could get away with it. Surely this should be morally wrong for Sinn Fein?? Absolute hypocrites.

  • Dan

    Grubby little chancer.
    He should face suspension.

  • Granni Trixie

    Good point. I assumed they were hand delivered. My Understandmg is also that the UUP combined with the DUP to organise the postcard campaign.

  • Granni Trixie

    In these days of scarce resources £900 matters. There is also the question of MLAs showing leadership in being careful with other people’s money. It’s good that an example has been set for other MLAs spending.

  • Granni Trixie

    The connection between misuse of £900 and the Northern Bank robbery is tolerance – the latter appears to have been tolerated infact has become a joke and the former not.

  • Mike the First

    Ooh, let’s see, how about:
    – Campaigning against McDonald’s over the “sin of partitionism” committed by a burger
    – Supporting the painting of postboxes green by vandals (and then having to retract and apologise as he’d broken the Code of Conduct)
    – Saying Raymond McCreesh should be given a Nobel Prize
    – Attacking the Corrs for accepting MBEs (while saying he enjoyed their music, perhaps as worryingly…)
    Old “Radar” is a bit of a figure of fun (not in the good way), and quite the barrel-bottom-scraper…

  • Robin Keogh

    So no law breaking then

  • Robin Keogh

    Mind boggling

  • chrisjones2

    No he just broke the Assembly rules and the code of conduct and used £900 of our money improperly and for private party campaigning

  • chrisjones2

    If Hussey hadn’t complained he would have got away with it as it seems the Assembly dont police these claims at all – its an open trough. MLAs just do what they like. Remember the BBC documentary? Shameful and if it ever gets to the Standards Committee there’s always a Petition of Concern to fall back on

  • chrisjones2

    Are there any more cases in the pipeline?

  • Mike the First

    Where did I mention law -breaking? I thought we were talking about scraping the bottom of the barrel. Could you perchange be trying just a teensy tad of deflection?

    Though with his paint-the-postboxes nonsense, McElduff did actually support and encourage lawbreaking, and in the process breached the Code of Conduct. The latter of which he’s just done again…ironically with another postal service connection…

  • Granni Trixie

    I do hope not.

  • Reader

    My understanding was that the DUP paid for printing, but that the leaflets were hand delivered by both DUP and UUP activists.
    Which means that they probably managed to deliver tens of thousands of leaflets for less than Barry managed to spend delivering a few hundred.

  • chrisjones2

    Oh who could be that smart!!!

  • For which the Sinn Féin MLA subsequently claimed the costs back from charged the costs to public funds… [Update It looks like pre-paid NI Assembly envelopes may have been used]

  • Robin Keogh

    And when the mistaje was pointed out to him he repaid it. End of story.

  • Croiteir

    Countless episodes of M.A.S.H. but we will excuse your youth

  • Hugh Davison

    I’m glad you agree it was a mistake, and I’m sure you also agree that the mistake was acknowledged and the money will be paid back. Net cost £0.

  • Hugh Davison

    Big big story. Isn’t that why Arlene was left in Finance when the rest of the DUPers were on a 1-day week? To stop the taigs getting their hands on the money?
    The guy has had the rules explained to him, has acknowledged the error, and is paying the £900 back. Where’s the story?