A NEW Fine Gael TD who promised to take only half his salary has hired two family members as his staff and got another elected to his vacant council seat.
The Irish Independent has learned that Brendan Griffin has hired his wife Roisin as his secretarial assistant, his cousin Tommy Griffin as his parliamentary assistant and helped another cousin, Matt Griffin, get his old council seat.
Mr Griffin (29) won a seat in Kerry South, ousting the sitting Fine Gael TD Tom Sheahan. He made the fact that he would give up €46,000 of a TD's €90,000 salary a central plank of his election campaign.
He officially gave it up last week -- signing a form that allows the Oireachtas to send the money back into the public purse -- and called on other TDs to make a similar gesture.
However, his family members will earn more than that with their combined salaries.
"We are not all in it for personal gain," Mr Griffin said last week, when officially handing the money back to the State.
Without interviewing anyone else, Mr Griffin hired his wife to a job that has a salary of around €25,000 a year and his cousin to a post that pays between €41,092 and €52,200.
TDs can hire whomever they want for these personal-staff appointments -- with salaries paid by the taxpayer.
Even though secretarial assistants are paid a basic rate of around €25,000, those hired can apply for a higher salary if they have enough experience.
Mr Griffin did not know if his wife had applied for a higher salary, but said she had 10 years' administrative experience.
However, he said she "has been my secretary for the last 10 years, since I became actively involved in politics. She is the best person for the job."
Mr Griffin also seconded his cousin Matt at a convention held to fill the seat on Kerry County Council that he left behind. Matt Griffin was the only person nominated and now has a council seat which can be worth around €30,000 a year in payments and expenses.
He said his cousin was also the best "person for the job" who "happens to be my cousin".
Mr Griffin defended all the appointments and said each family member was the best person for the job.
He added: "I've huge faith in my staff and I know they will do a very good job for me."
The news comes after this newspaper revealed that Fine Gael Dublin North TD Alan Farrell hired his wife as a parliamentary assistant after his efforts to get her elected to his vacant council seat failed.
Both TDs have caused embarrassment within Fine Gael.
One party source said Mr Griffin was operating a "cottage industry".