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Sunday 16 December 2018

Cabinet protects pensions but workers will pay price

Special advisor Cathy Herbert (left) steers Finance Minister Brian Lenihan past the media at Google HQ in Dublin yesterday
Special advisor Cathy Herbert (left) steers Finance Minister Brian Lenihan past the media at Google HQ in Dublin yesterday

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

CABINET members will not see their 10pc salary cut apply to their own pensions -- despite seeking to enforce pay cuts on other public sector workers that will extend into their retirement.

The Department of Finance last night confirmed the 'salary sacrifice' adopted by politicians applied only to current wages, with their payments shooting back up again once they take their pensions.

It claimed the terms of legislation meant politicians could only 'gift' their 10pc sacrifice to the Minister for Finance. Applying it to pensions would create a need for primary legislation, a spokesman explained.

Duty

At the same time, the Irish Independent has learned that only 25 people, out of an estimated 200 or more, who enjoy high-level State salaries outside the political system, have applied to join the 10pc pay cut in the four months since the 'call to patriotic duty'.

The 25 'outsiders' are outnumbered some five-to-one by politicians who voluntarily took the cut. These include the Taoiseach, Tanaiste, ministers, junior ministers, Ceann Comhairle, President, and some Opposition politicians, including FG leader Enda Kenny.

Employees at Secretary-General level in the civil service have also made the sacrifice. Judges, however, are Constitutionally barred from having a pay cut while in office.

The Tanaiste's new post-cut salary is €220,792, that of Ministers and the Ceann Comhairle €202,676, and the rate for junior ministers and the Leas Ceann Comhairle now stands at €139,266.

Meanwhile Brian Cowen's 10pc pay cut -- plus the non-acceptance of a €38,000 pay rise Bertie Ahern had lined up for himself in 2007 -- has seen our Taoiseach fall down the rankings of what might literally be called the "Premiership" of world leaders.

But only slightly. When Mr Cowen took over from Mr Ahern at the helm of Government, the former Fianna Fail leader had already been shamed by a public backlash into slamming the brakes onto a plan to massively boost the pay packet.

The Bertie booster would have taken the salary for the office of Taoiseach to €310,000 -- which would have put him at the top of the European pay league for prime ministers. It was later parked indefinitely.

Mr Cowen now receives a salary of €257,024, (plus 18 cent), which is a fall of one-sixth on the new salary summit which Mr Ahern sought to bring to the office.

This quarter-million figure reflects the 10pc pay cut adopted by the Cabinet.

But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown still receives much less, for governing a population 15 times the size of Ireland.

The occupant of 10 Downing Street is paid €208,901.22, although it is expressed as Stg£187,611.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's salary stands at €240,000, despite leading a citizenry once more 15 times the size of this country.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is at a similar rate, earning €243,177.83.

The Taoiseach is currently in Japan meeting with its prime minister, Taro Aso. Mr Cowen’s €257,000 comfortably outguns Mr Aso’s €189,788. But then the Japanese PM has been living with a 30pc pay cut to reflect his country’s continuing economic slump.

When he presents shamrock in the White House to his fellow son of Offaly – incoming US President Barack Obama – Mr Cowen will have to defer, however.

The 44th US President, who is inaugurated next Tuesday, will be paid an annual salary of €400,000, which is equivalent to €305,606.85 at current rates.

Russian President Dimitir Medvedev is paid €62,000. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, whose pension remains expressed as a proportion of the ‘uncut’ Head of Government salary, disliked such direct comparisons, however – and not for the obvious reason.

He said it did not take into account the fact that the Taoiseach did not enjoy a Chequers or a Downing Street, or an Elysee Palace to live in.

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