Hell raised over raise call

[caption id="attachment_69119" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Alasdair McDonnell."]


New SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell has been forced to apologize after saying that MLAs at Stormont are entitled to a salary increase and more

generous pension provision.

MLAs receive a basic salary of £43,000 a year. MLAs' pay and pensions are currently being reviewed by an independent panel.

After the South Belfast MP's comments were carried in a newspaper he came under criticism from two members of his own party, his deputy

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Dolores Kelly and Lisburn Mayor Brian Heading.

"The MLAs should not be looking at improving their pay or pension schemes when so many people are having their pensions cut and so many

people are losing their jobs," Mayor Heading told BBC Radio Ulster.

Dr. McDonnell said a more generous scheme was needed to ensure retired politicians did not end up in poverty and initially reiterated his call for better pay and pensions for assembly members.

"We in the SDLP stand for decent pay and conditions for all workers, including elected representatives and decent social protection for all," he said.

"Cllr. Heading is entitled to his opinion but I think he is wrong. In the face of witch-hunt reporting and with so many other politicians keeping their heads down, we need to get our facts right and keep our eye on the vital democratic principle at stake.

"Even if we pay MLAs starvation wages there is no guarantee that the areas of deprivation Cllr. Heading is properly focused on will be tackled any better."

However, the following day, Dr. McDonnell said he was sorry that his words, without explaining the wider context, had caused offence to the public and party colleagues and he acknowledged the party is committed to an MLA wage freeze.