Nominee to EU Commission will double take-home pay in new role
Ireland's expected nominee to the new EU Commission is set to double their take-home pay.
Labour has continued to ramp up pressure for outgoing party leader Eamon Gilmore to get the five-year Brussels posting from next October.
But Fine Gael remains insistent that the nomination is theirs and Environment Minister Phil Hogan remains the most likely to be chosen.
But it has emerged that the post is worth double an Irish government minister's salary. The EU Commissioner's yearly salary is €250,000 and this is enhanced by an additional 15pc overseas allowance, bringing it to €288,000.
Various other allowances offset 45pc EU tax rate and 7pc solidarity levy which applies. By contrast, the Tanaiste's gross salary is €184,000 per year, while a ministerial salary is €169,000 per year, and various taxes effectively halve this when it comes to take-home pay.
This simple arithmetic shows that the EU Commissioner post is the biggest prize in any Taoiseach's gift, grossing up to €1.5m in pay over the five-year term. The value of the post becomes even more apparent when severance and pensions terms are factored in and the potential of future earnings is also taken into account.
Yesterday, two Labour junior ministers, Joe Costello and Kathleen Lynch, said they believed that Mr Gilmore was the best qualified for the job. They also argued that sending Mr Gilmore would help ensure a prestige post that would increase Ireland's political clout in Brussels and the other EU capitals.
Labour sources continued to insist that the Commission post was not "flagged to Fine Gael" in negotiations on government positions in February/March 2011. "It is a matter for negotiation in forthcoming talks between the new Labour leader and the Taoiseach," one source said.
But Fine Gael sources remained adamant that the nomination was their prerogative. They further argue that Mr Hogan would secure a high-profile appointment, with agriculture, which controls 40pc of EU spending, a real possibility.
EU leaders endorsed the candidature of new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at their summit in Brussels last Friday. His appointment will be formalised in the coming weeks and several countries – including Finland, which is sending its outgoing Prime Minister Jyrki Katanien – have already named their commissioner.
Discussions between Mr Juncker and the heads of government, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, will begin shortly on the allocation of portfolios.
Of the 28 Commission jobs, the kindest estimate is that about one-third have a real budget and/or direct powers.
But Ireland has a good record of sending candidates who can command prestige positions.
The last time Ireland held the agriculture portfolio was in the years 1989-1993 when Ray MacSharry served as Commissioner.