Sunday 17 December 2017

Ministers forced to give up €12,000 pay hike

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe
Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ministers' salaries are to be frozen at €157,000 following a huge public backlash, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe is to formally ask Cabinet colleagues in the coming weeks to forego pay restoration.

It follows days of public and political disquiet after it emerged that ministers are due a pay rise of €3,911 on April 1.

Throughout yesterday, ministers, including Mr Donohoe, declined to rule out accepting the money, repeatedly pointing out that their pay is linked to that of senior civil servants.

"Anything involving politicians' pay never looks good, which is why we don't decide how much we're paid and we never should," Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said. However, sources confirmed that Mr Donohoe would raise the issue with the Cabinet "imminently".

It is understood that his proposal will only affect ministers, meaning that TDs will still be entitled to their €2,700 pay rise next year.

The Irish Independent has also learned that ministers in the previous government had made a similar agreement but it was not reaffirmed after the General Election. This is despite the fact that nine ministers, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, remain at the Cabinet table.

Politicians are among the public servants earning over €65,000 who are due to benefit from a clawback of temporary pay cuts that were imposed during the recession. Under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, ministers are to see their pay restored to pre-2013 levels in three tranches between April 2017 and April 2019.

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

Mr Donohoe yesterday refused to rule out ministers getting the pay increase, saying he would "revisit" the issue next year.

However, this process is now set to be expedited and a decision to freeze ministerial pay is likely within weeks.

"It was already agreed by ministers in the last government that they wouldn't take the money but there are newly appointed ministers, so the decision will have to be taken again," said a source.

Former Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin confirmed that the deal had been struck before the election.

"I secured the agreement of all sitting ministers and ministers of State at that time that they would forego benefits they would stand to gain under the Lansdowne Road agreement.

"It remains my view that current ministers should follow the same path," he said.

Mr Donohoe faced a series of questions on political salaries during radio interviews yesterday, with one caller describing the hikes at a time when social welfare payments are going up by just €5 as "very insensitive".

He was asked if his plan to revisit the issue meant that ministers would end up foregoing the increases.

But he replied: "I'm not getting into that yet because all the changes that are happening are not part of the Budget."

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice told the Irish Independent he sent an email to the Houses of the Oireachtas last August, saying he does not want the increase to his TD's salary of €87,258. But he was told he would have to wait until March to formally make the request.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy described the furore as a "leadership issue", saying she was glad the issue was on the Government agenda "because I think it's an issue on the public's agenda".

Irish Independent

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