Saturday 21 April 2018

Dail chairman saves taxpayer €300,000 by cutting his staff

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

THE new Dail Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk has saved the taxpayer at least €300,000 by slashing the number of staff in his office.

His predecessor, John O'Donoghue, had more than doubled the number of staff in the Ceann Comhairle's office to eight when he took over.

But according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, Mr Kirk has now reversed this decision and will have a staff of just three people.

Mr Kirk will have a private secretary, a junior clerk and a clerical officer, with an annual wage bill totalling €187,000.

In contrast, Mr O'Donoghue had a private secretary, two executive officers, four clerical officers and a special adviser at an annual cost of €487,000.

So the Ceann Comhairle's staff wage bill will be 60pc less -- a saving of €300,000 to the taxpayer for each year he serves.

As part of his own review of the staff numbers, Mr Kirk has decided not to hire a special adviser, unlike Mr O'Donoghue who had employed his former ministerial adviser, Dan Collins, on a salary of around €100,000.

The need for such an adviser had been questioned by Fine Gael, given Mr O'Donoghue's primary role was to maintain order in the Dail and adjudicate on disputes there.

The FoI request reveals that the Leas Cheann Comhairle, Labour TD Brendan Howlin, has also voluntarily cut his number of office staff. He previously had three staff, but this is now two (one private secretary and one clerical officer).

The annual staffing cost will reduce from €173,000 to €133,000, a saving of €40,000.

Budget

The Oireachtas Commission, which is headed by Mr Kirk, is also considering rowing back on the number of foreign trips.

Back in November 2007, its members had voted to increase the annual travel budget for Mr O'Donoghue and fellow office holders such as Leas Cheann Comhairle Brendan Howlin from €100,000 to €160,000.

At the same time, Mr O'Donoghue was given permission by the commission to bring his wife, Kate Ann, with him on his controversial foreign trips.

But the commission could reduce the travel budget of the office from €160,000 to €85,000 -- a 40pc cut.

Mr Kirk himself made his first major trip abroad last week when he travelled to the United States for the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Irish Independent

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