Wednesday 29 March 2017

Now Lucinda gets her own adviser on €62,000 a year

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday appointed another spin doctor as the controversy raged over him granting a €35,000 pay hike to an adviser.

Former RTE news reporter Stephen O'Shea (above), who is 26, became the 36th special adviser appointed by the Government, who collectively cost the taxpayer €3.6m a year in salaries.

Mr O'Shea was appointed as a special adviser to European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, based in Mr Kenny's Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr O'Shea's salary will be just under €62,000. His appointment was ratified by the Cabinet yesterday.

Junior ministers are not allowed to hire advisers, except in special circumstances.

Due to the workload associated with Ms Creighton's post, particularly with Ireland's EU Presidency in 2013, the Government decided she needed an adviser.

Mr O'Shea has worked as a personal assistant for Ms Creighton for the past 14 months, going back to her time in opposition.

The Kildare native was also active in Young Fine Gael and worked as a journalist in the RTE newsroom, on 'Nationwide' and on children's news programmes.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny continued to take flak for personally overruling Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Finance Minister Michael Noonan to bring the pay of his former spin doctor Ciaran Conlon up to €127,000.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams described the affair as a "€35,000 pay rise for a political crony".

He asked Mr Kenny why he was prepared to intervene on behalf of one person, while others had their payments slashed in the Budget.

Intervened

Mr Kenny said the Coalition had reduced the cost of advisers from €4.7m to €3.6m.

Under the previous government, 39 of the 41 advisers were paid more than the €92,000 salary cap, he said.

"One of my jobs is to sanction advisers. In this case, yes, I did send an email," he said.

Mr Kenny said Mr Conlon had a masters in economics and a "long experience in politics" after working with Fine Gael over several years.

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Conlon was not paid for five months as his salary was being sorted out.

Mr Kenny won't say if he intervened to raise the wages of any more special advisers.

His spokesman said he was "not aware" of any other cases.

The affair has cast a shadow over the Budget with the opposition laughing when Mr Howlin claimed the Government had "cut the overall costs of special advisers to ministers".

Irish Independent

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