Pressure on TDs to show leadership with cut in wages
THE Government was under growing pressure last night to cut politicians' wages to set an example to people facing a drop in living standards over the next four years.
Politicians themselves were joining public demands that pay be cut in next week's draconian Budget as ordinary citizens prepare to deal with tax hikes and wage cuts as part of the four-year plan.
One of the Independent TDs Taoiseach Brian Cowen is depending on for a Budget vote last night said politicians had to show leadership on the issue.
Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry said he would be meeting with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan this week and would be telling him that politicians -- including himself -- semi-state bosses and the judiciary must take substantial cuts.
Coalition sources said reductions in pay were likely to be included in the Budget.
But Kerry South's Jackie Healy-Rae, the other Independent TD the Government is relying on to vote for the Budget, said he would not be making any comment on any requests he may have for Mr Lenihan.
TDs with less than seven years' service are currently paid €92,672, with those in the Dail with over seven to 10 years getting €95,550 and anyone with more than 10 years' service receiving €98,424.
However, that is before expenses and other allowances, such as €10,000 for committee chairs, are included. Senators' salaries range between €65,621 and €69,647.
Mr Lowry said he would not be holding a gun to the Government's head and added he would not decide if he would support the Budget until after his meeting with Mr Lenihan.
"Every TD has taken a substantial pay cut already," Mr Lowry said last night. "But to lead by example, there must be pay cuts for TDs and ministers and the number of junior ministers should be looked at as well."
Mr Lowry said the bailout interest rate imposed by the EU and IMF must not be too draconian and said another issue he would be talking to Mr Lenihan about was the cost of college registration fees.
A coalition source said pay cuts for politicians were definitely on the table. "It has to be done, you have no moral authority to do what we'll be doing otherwise," the source said.
It is expected the pay cuts will be around 10pc, the cut announced in the four-year plan for all new recruits to the public sector; but it could be more for ministers.
But it has not yet been decided if the cut should apply to all TDs, or just deputies who win seats for the first time at the General Election.
Sources also said a car-pooling system for Dublin ministers was on the cards for the Budget, with the Green Party particularly keen on it as well as pay cuts.
The Green Party also repeated last night that it appreciated the initial end-of-January deadline it set for an election may not be met.
A spokesman for Environment Minister John Gormley said complex legislation underpinning the Budget, such as the Finance Bill, had to be dealt with first. He added that the legislation could be passed quickly if the Dail returned earlier after Christmas.