Mitchell won't say how much his wife got from taxpayer
Published 13/10/2011 | 05:00
PRESIDENTIAL candidate Gay Mitchell is refusing to disclose details of how much his wife has been paid to work in his office.
The Irish Independent has learned that Norma Mitchell has worked as a paid assistant to her husband for the past 14 years -- with estimated earnings in that time of €313,500, paid for by Irish and European taxpayers.
Despite pressure from other candidates, Mr Mitchell has refused to say how much his wife earned while she worked for him in the Dail and the European Parliament, saying this was "private".
Records provided by the Oireachtas indicate that Mrs Mitchell, pictured inset with her husband, earned a minimum of €100,000 in total in seven years, working as a secretarial assistant for him between 1997 and 2004.
She was later given a job on his European Parliament staff, working as his constituency manager in Dublin.
Mr Mitchell said the six people on his staff, including his wife, were paid €183,000 between them last year -- an average of €30,500 each.
However, he refused to reveal exactly how much Mrs Mitchell had received and he cannot be compelled to do so under European Parliament rules.
Asked how much Mrs Mitchell was paid during her 14 years as a member of her husband's staff, the presidential candidate's spokeswoman said: "Mr Mitchell does not disclose information on the salaries of individual members of staff, as it is private to them."
Based on the average annual pay packet of €30,500 for Mr Mitchell's European Parliament staff last year, a conservative estimate of his wife's EU salary is €213,500 over seven years.
However Mr Mitchell's campaign team, while refusing to confirm this figure, would not disclose how much his wife -- or the rest of his staff -- were paid individually.
And his spokeswoman could not provide any figures for what his staff were paid between June 2004 and the end of 2008.
Mrs Mitchell worked in a voluntary capacity during her husband's political career until after the 1997 general election.
His spokeswoman said that she was hired as his Dail secretarial assistant after the position had been advertised and nobody applied.
She said that Mr Mitchell continued employing his wife when he won his seat in Brussels, explaining that her job "transferred over".
The spokeswoman said that questions on how much Mrs Mitchell was paid while she was Mr Mitchell's Dail secretarial assistant should be referred to the Oireachtas.
Salary scales for the years 1997 to 2004, provided by the Dail, show that, if Mrs Mitchell had started her role at the lowest pay grade, she would have been paid at least €100,000 over those seven years. Again, the Mitchell campaign would not confirm this.
This newspaper first sought details of Mrs Mitchell's salaries paid by the Dail and European Parliament on Wednesday last week but the Mitchell campaign has repeatedly refused to reveal the exact figures.
A conservative estimate of Mrs Mitchell's combined Dail and European Parliament comes to €313,500 -- or more than €22,000 a year.
On this sum, Mr Mitchell's spokeswoman said: "In the context of the 25 years that she has worked for him, it probably would be less than the average industrial wage."
Mr Mitchell's spokeswoman said that all of the salaries paid to his staff are "within the normal range of parliamentary salaries".
She added that Mrs Mitchell resigned her role on June 9 this year to manage her husband's campaign to secure the Fine Gael nomination.
She said that the candidate had voted for new parliamentary procedures which prohibit close relatives from working for MEPs. These new regulations do not come into effect until 2014.
However, his spokeswoman confirmed that Mrs Mitchell would not be returning to her job among her husband's parliamentary staff if he fails to win the race for the Aras, because he had voted to outlaw the practice of hiring family members.