Northern Ireland

MLAs clash over St Patrick's Day Washington visit

White House and grounds
Image caption UUP leader Mike Nesbitt wants just two MLAs to go to the White House on St Patrick's Day

Members of a Stormont committee have clashed over how many MLAs go to Washington for St Patrick's Day at taxpayers' expense.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, who chairs the OFMDFM committee, has threatened to boycott the trip in protest if more than two members go.

It was put to a vote and Mr Nesbitt was defeated. The other parties will decide by Monday if they are going.

Sinn Fein has accused him of playing politics.

No other parties

The row began when Mr Nesbitt said five members instead of the usual two had been invited to Washington next month, a move he said could treble the usual cost to more than £17,000.

He proposed that just the chair and the vice-chair should go and not representatives of the other three parties on the committee.

Sinn Fein and the DUP, however, said it should be left to the parties to decide.

Mr Nesbitt later issued a statement saying that if any other party decided to send a representative, increasing the number of committee members travelling beyond two, he would boycott the trip in protest.