Tuesday 25 April 2017

TD salaries slashed by €17,000

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE pay packets of TDs will fall by an average of €17,000 this year, a new Irish Independent survey has found.

Their overall earnings will drop by about 13pc to an average of €112,000 after the economic downturn brought the Dail gravy train to a grinding halt.

However, our elected representatives' overall salaries are still high by international comparisons.

The study by the Irish Independent shows that the salaries of our TDs and ministers have been cut by €2.75m over the past 18 months -- almost €17,000 per TD.

The survey charts the exact salary of every TD in every constituency, showing exactly what they are paid, and explains the breakdown of the pay bill. But this is before the expenses package and allowances for offices, phones, travel and subsistence are added into the equation.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is finalising plans to also reform the Oireachtas expenses system, which will result in cuts for all TDs. The new system will be vouched and will mean TDs having to clock in, in some form, to prove their attendance.

Aside from being hit with the public sector pay cut from Budget 2010, which was implemented from the start of this year, TDs have also seen their top-up payments cut or scrapped completely.

The high point for politicians' wages came in September 2008, when the basic wage broke through the symbolic €100,000 mark for the first time and the Taoiseach's salary reached €285,000.

The increase at that point came about when the Towards 2016 wage agreement kicked in. It brought the annual pay bill for all our TDs to €21.2m. But this peak was short-lived as within six weeks the cutbacks began, with the Taoiseach, ministers and junior ministers taking a 10pc reduction in the early Budget of October 2008.

Since then, politicians have seen their salary cut by an average of €16,600 -- ranging from €57,000 off Brian Cowen's salary to €7,526 from a newly elected backbencher's basic wage. The annual pay bill now stands at €1.85m per annum.

The Budget 2010 public sector pay cut saw a TD's basic salary reduced by 8pc, as it fell into a higher income band.

When the Government brought in this obligatory pay cut, most TDs who had taken a voluntary cut accepted this new salary level to avoid taking a double hit.

But a few TDs, such as Fine Gael's Frank Feighan, are still accepting a voluntary reduction of 5pc on top of their 8pc pay cut.

Bonus

Fifty TDs only get the basic Dail salary of €92,672. The rest are either ministers, holders of positions in the Oireachtas or entitled to long-service bonus payments.

All salaries are subject to the public sector pension levy, introduced last year.

The allowances paid for holding positions on Oireachtas committees are treated as permanent pensionable pay -- but these were slashed last year, saving €565,000 per annum.

And a large group of TDs lost out on a €3,000 pay rise last year, which was due to kick in just after ordinary workers got hit by tax hikes in the emergency Budget

The bonus payments due to be made to one in every six TDs in the Dail, simply because they held on to their seats in the general election, were halted by the Government.

Some 26 TDs from across all the political parties, elected for the first time in 2002, were due to pick up an increase of €3,198 on their permanent pay, known as a long-term increment.

TDs who had already served over seven years or 10 years continued to pick up the bonus, but no new entrants to the system were granted the pay rise.

The number of junior ministers was reduced from 20 to 15, also generating savings of almost €250,000.

Mr Cowen's own salary went up to €285,582 within months of him taking up office, but is now down to €228,466 after two cuts worth 20pc to ministerial salaries.

Before the economic downturn, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern accepted the recommendation of a review body on salaries to increase his wages by another €36,000 to see his pay packet hit €310,000 over the following years.

However, a public backlash caused this recommendation to be shelved.

The highly lucrative Oireachtas committee system was substantially curbed over the past year.

Committee chairmen saw their allowance halved and members of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, the body in charge of running Leinster House, got a cut of 20pc.

The much-maligned payments for committee vice-chairmen and convenors were also abolished completely.

Irish Independent

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