Monday 23 October 2017

Bridget's hopping mad, and Pat is downcast - but Enda should be happy

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe with Sean O’Rourke, centre, and Finance
Minister Michael Noonan in RTE. Photo: Mark Condren
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe with Sean O’Rourke, centre, and Finance Minister Michael Noonan in RTE. Photo: Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Bridget was on the line, "hopping mad and frustrated" as Joe Duffy observed.As a former professional in a high-paid job, she had left to be a stay-at-home mother to her five children and feels let down by the Government for not supporting her choice in the Budget because she's got "nothing".

"I don't think the Government are interested in children... and putting them first," she said.

Joe Duffy. Photo: Paul Sharp/Sharpix
Joe Duffy. Photo: Paul Sharp/Sharpix

Pat, from Co Clare, had also decided that his best option was to 'Talk to Joe'.

Aged 27 and with three children, he's decided he'd be better off going on the dole because "you get everything".

This Budget is worth just €2.80 a week to him.

If you're working, you're "wasting your time", he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

He knows two women who haven't worked in years, who have already cracked into their Christmas shopping and who "don't have to worry about anything" because they "get it all paid for".

"They think I'm a fool for working because they say why would you bother?"

"That's how bad it's got," he said.

"God, you're cast down, you really are," commented Joe. "I've had enough," said Pat, wearily.

Hard-pressed Enda from Co Mayo was probably just about equally fed up. Maybe even a little bit more.

He was in line to get a paltry €14,000 - staggered over the next three years too, if you wouldn't mind.

Read more: 'TDs giving themselves a pay-rise is very insensitive' - Ministers forced to answer the tough questions on Budget 2017

This would have dragged his salary up to €200,00 - until Paschal Donohoe last night confirmed that planned ministerial pay hikes would be frozen.

But Enda is about to hit pension age next April - nicely timing the introduction of the extra fiver - sure, he too might be tempted to go on the dole right now and sit at home with his feet up, because why would you bother?

It would open up the slot for Paschal - who isn't sitting beside the phone waiting for it to ring because he is very busy and has his "hands full" and besides, there isn't a vacancy. Yet.

Enda didn't 'Talk to Joe' though, and Paschal didn't phone the RTÉ 'Liveline' show either - although he did appear on 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' with Finance Minister Michael Noonan, and later fielded questions from the public with Matt Cooper on 'The Last Word'.

Bringing the Budget to the people and having to listen to them moan about it - isn't that alone worth a salary top-up of at least €5,000 for the average TD?

Mary from Galway was on the line with Sean O'Rourke, warning that people are angry that TDs were planning on giving themselves pay increases when everyone was discussing the pension increase and the Budget in general. "TDs giving themselves a pay rise is very insensitive," she patiently explained.

Paschal leapt to reassure her that the pay restoration was in line with the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

"What we have now is the Lansdowne Road Agreement, with a partial wage restoration and the payment and salary of a TD is tied in with this," he said helpfully.

"The change of wage for a TD is happening at the same time as it is for anyone else in the civil and public service."

So, you see? Just the same as everybody else.

"The last thing on my mind at the moment is the welfare and salary of TDs, I can assure you," he added.

"I'm just telling you about the perception," said Mary, sounding bewildered by now.

"I absolutely understand that perception and I'm so keenly aware of the hurt and anxiety that's been caused to so many people after all that we went through," said Paschal, explaining that it was all tied in to how we treat public servants. He muttered something about the possibility of reviewing ministerial pay - but he didn't go into much detail on air. By lunchtime, Catherine Murphy of the Soc Dems was describing it as an issue of leadership.

"It is about setting a tone; it is about leading from the front," she said. Michael Fitzmaurice echoed her, saying it was "immoral".

There's one thing to be said for New Politics, though. They're fairly quick off the mark when there's a sniff of trouble. And this was trouble.

Irish Independent

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