Doug Beattie: why I am ashamed and embarrassed to be an MLA

An Ulster Unionist politician has said he is “ashamed and embarrassed” to be an MLA, given that he has been unable to fulfil his duties as an elected representative for more than a year.

In a candid interview, Doug Beattie said it was time for the secretary of state to “stop stalling” and cut MLAs’ pay.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said there was no need for any further consultation on MLA pay

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said there was no need for any further consultation on MLA pay

It comes after Karen Bradley she was “minded” to cut salaries by 27.5% – but would first consult the parties before making a final decision.

Mr Beattie said there was “no need” for any further consultation on this issue, adding that all the main parties had “already made their views perfectly clear”.

“I was disappointed by the secretary of state’s latest announcement. There is consensus across the board that things cannot stay as they are,” the Upper Bann MLA added.

“It has been almost 15 months since the Assembly collapsed and for many MLAs it is through no fault of their own, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are only doing a portion of the job we are being paid for.”

The former soldier added that he had been “deeply depressed” by DUP MLA Simon Hamilton’s assertion that devolution was unlikely to be restored this year and even beyond that.

He added that, with the prospects of power-sharing returning in the short-term looking bleak, many MLAs – himself included– could be forced to consider leaving political life.

Mr Beattie said: “I don’t think any MLA got into politics for the money; I know I didn’t. In fact I left a better paid job to become a politician.

“So for me it is less an issue of my pay being cut and more about the prospects. I left school at 16 and spent my life as a soldier. There are not many employers who are going to be clambering for a 52-year-old, uneducated former soldier and failed politician.”

He added that he was “slightly ashamed and embarrassed” that he is currently unable to fully carry out his role as an elected official.

“I am an elected MLA and I have to go cap in hand to permanent secretaries just to find out what is going on,” he said.

“The whole situation is ridiculous and it cannot continue indefinitely.

“It is time for Ms Bradley to stop stalling and act.”

Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said he fears that local devolved government will “be lost for a generation” as a result of the ongoing political impasse at Stormont.

Previously, the West Tyrone representative told the News Letter that, while he was not seeking to leave politics, he is considering returning to a law career on a part-time basis to supplement his income.

He added: “The latest update from the secretary of state only serves to show how fragile the North has become and how the DUP and Sinn Fein have created a de facto political vacuum.

“The SDLP has said from day one that they support a reduction of MLAs’ pay as we are unable, through no fault of our own, to perform our work as legislators. I will engage positively in the consultation process.”