Audience member Jacqueline Gray asked whether the local politicians on the Question Time panel felt any sense of embarrassment “over receiving full salaries while they have been effectively bickering like toddlers?”.
To this, the Belfast audience erupted in rapturous applause.
Northern Ireland currently has no Government but they are still being paid and are taking between them £371,000 a month despite not doing anything.
MLA for Sinn Finn John O’Dowd said: “I only get paid around £48,000 a year, if I was bickering like a toddler then I would agree with the audience.
“We are dealing with fundamental rights of citizens, in terms of LGBT rights, that there is a denial to equal marriage in this society. I don’t see that as being childish.”
Power-sharing talks in Northern Ireland between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein have collapsed.
Sticking points include the shape of legislation to protect Irish language speakers and mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.
The DUP’s opposition to lifting the region’s ban on same-sex marriage has also been a source of controversy.
Northern Ireland has been without a Government since January when DUP leader Arlene Foster was forced from office.
Mr O’Dowd continued: “Let me be very clear about this unless the issues are resolved and we end up with a rights based society there will not be a return to the executive and under no circumstances MLA’s pay stop.”
MLA for the DUP, Simon Hamilton said: “It is the worst possible time for Northern Ireland not to have a Government and it is Sinn Finn’s refusal to go into the executive and to elevate issues such as language – which are important and deserve respect – but to elevate those above issues in the health service, in education, to do with Brexit in attracting jobs and bringing investment is just wrong.
“But I agree with John that that is an unsustainable position it will come to an end if we cannot find a resolution. But we will work on the solid progress that we have been making.”
But Ms Gray said: “It still sounds like children bickering. For the vast majority of people, if you don’t turn up to work then you don’t get paid.”
The audience again applauded.
Ms Gray continued: “The electorate understand that what you have to do is a difficult thing, lots of us have a difficult days work ahead of us and we still turn up and do it.
“The vast majority of MLAs have not been turning up to Surmount since January and therefore the work hasn’t been done.
“Get back to work, please get back to work!”
David Dimbleby asked the audience member: “John Dowd said that if the issue couldn’t be resolved then the issue would resolve itself naturally, there would be no assembly members, the assembly would be over.
“Do you want to see that?”
Ms Gray replied: “No I wouldn’t, I am in favour of devolution and I would like to see the people we voted into the positions working for our province.”