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.

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