Why Sinn Féin MPs don’t get salaries

Published: 11th Sep 2019

In brief

Claim

Sinn Féin MPs don’t get salaries.

Conclusion

Correct. Sinn Féin MPs and the party do receive other money for expenses.

“There is no desire to be in there and to be part of it… The interests of Ireland have never been represented by a Westminster Parliament” Chris Hazzard MP

“Why do you take the salary?” Victoria Derbyshire

“I don’t take the salary... I don’t get a salary from Westminster” Chris Hazzard MP, 4 September 2019

Journalist Victoria Derbyshire recently asked Chris Hazzard—an MP for the Irish Republican party Sinn Féin—why he takes his salary as an MP, given that he claims that the UK parliament does not represent the interests of his constituents.

Sinn Féin MPs maintain a policy of abstentionism in the House of Commons, meaning they don’t take their seats or vote.

As Mr Hazzard pointed out, Sinn Féin MPs do not receive parliamentary salaries. However they do receive money for expenses and the party itself receives some public money for party business, as do other opposition parties.

MPs are required by law to make an oath of allegiance or “solemn affirmation” to the Queen before being able to take their seats, vote in parliament or draw a salary.

As this goes against Sinn Féin’s rejection of the Queen as their head of State, its MPs refuse to do this.

Paul Maskey, MP for Belfast West, explained Sinn Féin’s view in the Guardian last year: “The crucial point here is that we are not British MPs. We are Irish MPs and we believe the interests of the Irish people can only be served by democratic institutions on the island of Ireland.

“Sinn Féin goes to the electorate seeking a mandate for that position. We are elected as MPs by people who vote for Sinn Féin not to take seats at Westminster.

“As MPs, therefore, we take no part in the Westminster parliament but in every other way we provide active representation for our constituents. We engage with British political parties, civic society and the Irish diaspora in Britain. We challenge the British government directly in our meetings with them. We lobby on constituents’ issues, and on all the political matters that affect the Irish people.”

In 2008,  a Sinn Féin press release stated that the rules on salaries meant that the party had been “denied” almost £1.5 million over a five year period. This suggests that the party felt that its MPs should receive their salaries; we’ve asked them for more recent information on their position.

Sinn Féin MPs are allowed to claim parliamentary expenses. In 2018/19 Sinn Fein’s seven MPs claimed £106,000 in office costs (things like stationary, rental costs and other bills) and £14,000 in accommodation costs (specifically hotels in the London area).

Aside from expenses for individual MPs, Sinn Féin as a party receives some money to cover “expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the employment of staff and related support to Members designated as that party’s spokesman in relation to the party’s representative business.”

This is similar to a scheme available to all other opposition parties, but unlike that one the money available to Sinn Féin is for parties whose MPs have not taken up their seats. Sinn Féin received around £170,000 through this scheme for party business in 2018/19.

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