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Taoiseach defends his own 'modest' pay rise

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today came under fire for claiming EU leaders like Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy enjoy extravagant lifestyles compared to his self-proclaimed modest existence.

Mr Ahern has spent almost three weeks defending a 14% pay rise which brought his annual salary to ?310,000.

His wage increase made him one of the world's best paid premiers, but his claim that he does not enjoy the perks of other leaders sparked further criticism in the Dail today.

Raising the issue, FG leader Enda Kenny, said: ``You preach pay restraints but you are by far and away the highest-paid world leader.''

Referring to leaders in the US, Britain and France, he continued: ``You don't have the White House, you don't have the yachts or the private jet but you represent only four million people as against 250 million or 80 million or 50 million.''

Mr Ahern said yesterday that Irish politicians deserved higher salaries because they didn't have access to weekend homes like Chequers for Mr Brown or luxury yachts which Mr Sarkozy enjoys.

He said that Mr Sarkozy has fewer living expenses because he collects more generous allowances.

He added: ``Not only do most of these people have permanent and weekend residences but they have holiday residences.

``They have different rules also as they are the beneficiaries of prolonged holidays, yachts and homes.''

Referring to Irish politicians, he added: ``We do not and should not have those regulations.''

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Mr Ahern rejected claims he was better paid than Mr Brown or Mr Sarkozy or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, telling the Dail that: ``Most of the people mentioned would not pay for a cup of tea from one end of the year to the other because they have catering staff in their homes and can use jets for social and other occasions.''

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