TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has backed away from two ministers' calls to block €7,000-per-head Irish Water staff bonuses -- because the Government has no power to do so.
After a day of confusion it emerged last night that the Government has no role in approving or blocking bonus payments to workers in semi-state firms such as Irish Water.
Mr Gilmore reluctantly admitted this and directly contradicted strong statements by two government ministers that they would move to block the Irish Water bonuses.
Under pressure in the Dail yesterday Mr Gilmore refused to condemn the controversial staff performance-related bonuses, averaging €7,000 each, to be paid to Irish Water staff.
But he conceded that pay in the commercial semi-state sector for all staff, with the exception of the chief executives, was a matter for those companies themselves.
"There is a clear government decision that reduced the pay of chief executives of commercial semi-state companies and ensured that no bonuses would be paid to them,'' the Tanaiste added.
On Wednesday night a senior official with the Public Expenditure Department also told the Public Accounts Committee that pay and allowances in commercial state firms were a matter for their boards of directors.
Mr Gilmore was replying to Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, who twice asked why the Government had approved the Irish Water bonuses.
Mr Gilmore rounded on the Fianna Fail leader recalling his term as Health Minister when he commissioned 145 consultants' reports costing €30m and spent €220m on the so-called Ppars payroll system.
On Wednesday Minister Joan Burton said the country was slowly recovering and trying to create jobs. "I do not see any room in the country for going back to a bonus culture," she told RTE.
Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes said bonuses were not justified and the Government was firm in its policy of not allowing them.
At the marathon Public Accounts Committee hearing on Wednesday, Irish Water boss, John Tierney, defended bonus payments as incentivising workers.
He also said that the Communications Department, headed by Minister Pat Rabbitte, was aware of payment arrangements.