GP MLA’s two day week draws criticism

Assembly voting records published during the week surprised no one in West Tyrone when they revealed Dr Kieran Deeny lay joint bottom of the table with a lowly 23% attendance for votes in the chamber.

Of course this is nothing new and the independent Assembly member makes little apology when these stories surface, reiterating the fact that he opts to remain a practicing GP and focus mainly on health issues. He repeated again this week;

Because of the insecure nature of politics, I could not give up my GP job and I think people are aware of that. I’m committed to working two days a week and so sometimes that means I have to do constituency work on an a Monday or a Tuesday.

However the fact that Deeny operates effectively as a two-day-a-week MLA on a full-time salary has readily prompted criticism from Sinn Fein, suggesting the doctor should donate part of his Assembly salary to the Omagh Hospital campaign.

An MLA salary is presently in the region of £44,000 plus expenses.

Deeny registered his GP salary with the Assembly as £65,000 in June (working an average 22 hours per week). He also registered the fact that he employed his wife as “part-time secretary and personal assistant”, which is hardly unique in politics.

No one is questioning Kieran Deeny’s dedication to the 8,500 patients his practice cares for or the people of West Tyrone, whom he campaigns for on health matters. He also dedicates his time to sitting on bodies such as the Western Local Commissioning Group.

However accepting a full-time salary for what is in effective part-time work has to be questioned. He also claimed over £54,000 for the office costs (including salaries) between 2009/10.  Again this is pretty standard for MLAs, but the independent MLA is notoriously difficult to contact via his constituency office in West Tyrone, as both constituents and voters would testify. Instead most opt to directly telephone his GP surgery.

“LAZY ABSTENTIONISTS”

Although constituents are well placed to call such practise into question, Sinn Fein are perhaps less so. Particularly when the issue of abstentionism in Westminster is raised. Pat Doherty states in his Assembly Register of Member’s Interest entry that;

I receive expenses only as MP for West Tyrone. I work an average of 70 – 80 hours per week. It is very difficult to apportion the hours worked between my roles as an MP and an MLA.

He might not take the salary, but he accepts plenty of expense for staff, offices and a London residence. Also, what is the difference between the role of an MLA and absentionist MP? Are they not one in the same? Doherty’s voting record at the Assembly wasn’t much higher than Deeny’s at 37%.

This has prompted DUP MLA Tom Buchanan’s to say;

It would seem that whilst Pat Doherty may well be an active abstentionist at Westminster, he’s clearly just a lazy abstentionist when it comes to the Assembly having only bothered to turn up to vote in just over one-third of all votes in the Assembly.

The two West Tyrone DUP MLAs incidentally recorded attendances of 90% (Tom Buchanan) and 97% (Allan Bresland), helping the DUP to the top the party voting record table with an overall average of 81%.

Voting record of West Tyrone MLAs

Kieran Deeny 23%
Pat Doherty 37%
Barry McElduff 67%
Claire McGill 83%
Tom Buchanan 90%
Allan Bresland 97%

Average voting record by party

DUP 81%
SDLP 78%
Sinn Fein 74%
UUP 60%

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About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

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