THE government-imposed salary cap on semi-state bosses will hamper the Dublin Airport Authority's (DAA) efforts to attract a new high-calibre chief executive, the incoming chairman, Padraig O'Riordain, has warned.
Mr O'Riordain, a partner with law firm Arthur Cox, told a joint Oireachtas committee yesterday that in his personal view, the €250,000 cap wouldn't enable the DAA to effectively compete for global aviation talent. He said that having too low a pay cap would "inhibit" the DAA's ability to attract the right kind of talent for the CEO position.
"A chief executive is not just for Christmas," he told the transport committee.
The current DAA boss, Declan Collier, is leaving the post in coming weeks as he takes up a role as chief executive of London City Airport. Mr O'Riordain denied that his views on the salary cap would place him in conflict with the Government.
"There won't be any clash with the Government on the pay cap," he said.
"I want to make my position very clear in relation to this. Dublin Airport Authority, with me as chairman, will comply with whatever the cap is, so there won't be a clash."
There was a political furore last year when it emerged that Mr Collier had been awarded a €106,000 bonus in respect of the 2010 financial year, bringing his total package to €612,000. The bonus was deferred, but a furious political reaction eventually forced Mr Collier to waive it.
"We're competing with literally hundreds of airports across Europe . . . but also other businesses who actually want to get high-calibre executives," Mr O'Riordain told the joint Oireachtas transport committee.
He claimed that the €250,000 cap for the CEO position at DAA is about half what the chiefs of airports such as those at Manchester and Birmingham are being paid.
Manchester airport handles a similar number of passengers to Dublin, while Birmingham handles about half as many.
London City Airport handled 2.8m passengers in 2010, when its chief executive was paid £406,000 (€490,000).
Mr O'Riordain, who advised the previous government on the creation of NAMA and helped negotiate Ireland's bailout terms, was approached about the DAA chairman role last October by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.
He replaces David Dilger, who resigned last year following a fallout with the minister.
Mr O'Riordain said that while he understood the public focus on salary levels, he would take a personal view that good candidates require good remuneration. "If that means paying a bit more . . . then I would pay a bit more," he said.
He told the committee when Steve Staunton was let go as the manager of the Ireland football team in 2007 and replaced by Giovanni Trapattoni in early 2008, no one really quibbled with the fact that the Italian was being paid substantially more.
Mr Trapattoni was paid about €1.8m a year compared to €400,000 for Steve Staunton. The results spoke for themselves, he said.
Mr O'Riordain is expected to formally become DAA chairman in the next week or two.
In a statement last night the Department of Transport said government policy in this area is that a salary cap would apply. "There is no proposal at this time to depart from this policy."