Big-hearted Bertie stands by his woman and her salary
Political adviser Una Claffey is now one of RTE's top earners, writes Sinead Grennan HE may be a whizz-kid handling the nation's high finances, but the Taoiseach's grasp of smaller, rounder figures has left Montrose agog.
It seems Bertie is prepared to pay top dollar for the new lady in his life, but those she left behind in RTE's newsroom are as confused as a viewer on Budget night.
Last week Mr Ahern told the Dail that his new political adviser, Una Claffey, would receive a salary of about £70,000, 10 per cent more than her RTE political correspondent salary.
On the basis of those figures, RTE's hacks - who have consistently played the poor mouth - must be on the pig's back.
By the Taoiseach's estimates, La Claff's stipend from the national broadcaster would roll in at £63,000.
However, the Sunday Independent has been told that Ms Claffey's salary and personal allowances at RTE last year should not have topped £39,000. At least that's what all the other RTE correspondents are paid.
Granted, Ms Claffey would also have been paid a representational allowance of about £1,000.
The immaculately groomed former doyenne of the pol corrs room also qualified for a clothing allowance of £800, enough for at least one trip around Brown Thomas.
On top of all that, a modest travel and subsistence expense would have occasionally been noted on the wage slip.
To tally with the Taoiseach's figure, therefore, Ms Claffey's travel and subsistence expenses would have been £22,000.
In anyone's book, that's a lot of trips to the Taj Mahal and back.
Ms Claffey, never shy about putting her spin on a story, was not taking media queries last week.
However, informed sources in RTE have said that it was highly unlikely her perks would have exceeded £6,000 a year.
Editorial and National Union of Journalist sources within RTE expressed amazement at the Taoiseach's sums.
They maintain that even the most prized correspondents could pocket a maximum of £47,000 or £48,000 gross, including all allowances and payments.
Those @@STYL cf,plabx in Opposition, who had faced the hot tongue and cold shoulder of La Claff in the past, delighted in probing the Taoiseach @@STYL cf,plabx on his new acquisition.
Bertie mentioned overtime and benefit in kind.
Sadly, there is no over-time payable to journalists, rather time-off-in-lieu. Nor are there any benefits-in-kind.
@@STYL cf,plabx Ms Claffey joined RTE in 1977 as a production assistant. In 1982 she joined Today Tonight as a reporter. Eight years on, she filled the Morning Ireland hot seat and subsequently became political correspondent.
Contrary to reports that she has resigned, @@STYL cf,plabx Montrose management confirmed she is officially on secondment to the Department of the Taoiseach.
As such, her salary will be paid through RTE, although funded by her new boss.
This, in a roundabout way, makes Ms Claffey one of RTE newsroom's top earners, exceeding the salary even of Director of News, Ed Mulhall, by some five grand.
Retaining the link @@STYL cf,plabx to the national broadcaster means a moderate retirement package could be hers in a few years time - about £12,000 a year and a lump sum of about £30,000 should she choose early retirement.
The Taoiseach defended Ms Claffey's salary and said the Department of Finance has guidelines on salaries: @@STYL cf,plabx @@STYL cf,plabx "One is allowed take one's full package and what would be one's salary, overtime and special allowances, @@STYL cf,plabx and one can get a figure on top of that package of about 10 per cent."