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Monday 5 December 2016

Micheál Martin got a €30,000 salary top-up at the expense of taxpayers

Extra payment brought total wage for 2014 to €117,258

Published 16/01/2016 | 02:30

Micheál Martin. Photo: Tom Burke
Micheál Martin. Photo: Tom Burke

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has had his salary topped up to the tune of at least €30,000-a-year from a taxpayer-backed fund.

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The payment was used in 2014 to bump his pay level up to €117,258.

And he received a further top-up last year, details of which Fianna Fáil has yet to reveal.

Mr Martin accepted the additional payment despite saying in 2012 he wasn't taking any top-ups.

The cash was drawn from one of two funds, worth a combined €13.8m annually, which parties and Independent TDs can access without having to provide detailed public accounts for where the money goes.

Records show the cash was used for a variety of purposes, ranging from the general administration of party organisations to hiring public relations consultants, research and policy development.

However, Mr Martin was the only party leader who used a portion of it to top up their basic TD's salary of €87,258 during the lifetime of the current Dáil.

The top-up meant he was being paid at a level close to that of a junior minister in 2014.

It was claimed from a fund called the Parliamentary Activities Allowance, previously known as the Party Leaders Allowance.

More than €31.3m has been dispersed to parties and Independent TDs and senators from this fund since 2011.

The fund allows for a payment to a party leader of a salary or honorarium in respect of duties arising from his or her activities as leader of a party as distinct from those of a member of the Dáil.

According to the Standards in Public Office Commission, payments made from the fund are not subject to income tax under the Oireachtas Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act 2014.

In a statement, Fianna Fáil said Mr Martin had not taken a payment from the party's Parliamentary Activities Allowance in 2011, 2012 and 2013 "as the party stabilised its finances".

"From 2014 onwards, he did take payment from the party to reflect the additional workload that he takes as party leader," it said.

The statement pointed out that both Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and former Labour leader Eamon Gilmore "took similar payments from this allowance for the full five-year period of the last Dáil".

When asked what top-up Mr Martin had received last year, his spokesman said he didn't have the figure to hand and that it would be supplied "as normal" in an annual return to SIPO.

The annual return for 2015 is not due to be made until March.

A query as to who in Fianna Fáil decided Mr Martin should receive the payment did not receive a response.

Prior to the last general election, it was the norm for Opposition party leaders to claim top-ups from the Parliamentary Activities Allowance.

However, Opposition party leaders, including Mr Martin, ended the practice of taking payments from the fund after it emerged Enda Kenny had received an annual €48,344 top-up on his salary in the years before he became Taoiseach.

Mr Martin is the only party leader who resumed acceptance of a top-up in the intervening period.

While in Opposition, Mr Gilmore and his then deputy leader Joan Burton had their salaries topped up by a combined €22,100 in 2010.

However, no Labour leader has taken a top-up from the fund since then.

Audited

Another taxpayer-funded cash stream, known as Electoral Act Funding, has netted the main political parties €20.3m since 2011.

Parties are restricted from spending the money from either of the two funds directly on election or referendum expenses.

Due to archaic regulations, they are not required to provide receipts or invoices for the cash spent or declare the identity of service providers used.

They are required to have their accounts audited, but only the bare minimum of information actually has to be supplied to SIPO and in some cases it has been submitted in handwritten form.

Irish Independent

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