Saturday 24 February 2018

FF's McGrath vows to abstain over move

REBEL Fianna Fail backbencher Mattie McGrath vowed last night to vote against the Government next week -- unless it changes its stance on the pay of high-ranking civil servants.

The outspoken TD insisted he would not vote with his party colleagues in the absence of "some changes and some accommodation of my position".

He is now seeking a meeting with Chief Whip Pat Carey to inform him that his vote cannot be relied upon when a Fine Gael motion calling on the Government to reverse the pay-cut exemption is debated next week.

The Tipperary South TD's stance threatens to further diminish the Government's already-slim majority.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is relying on 'independent Fianna Fail' TDs, two independents, two PDs and the Greens to pull his Government over the line.

At Tuesday night's meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party, Mr McGrath and Dublin North TD Michael Kennedy were among those to speak out against Finance Minister's Brian Lenihan's decision to exempt 642 senior public servants from full pay cuts of 8pc to 12pc, allowing them to escape with cuts of 3pc to 5pc.

"I'll definitely not vote for it. I'll more than likely abstain," Mr McGrath said last night.

"It's codswallop as far as I'm concerned ... You can't explain this to low-paid civil servants and the like."

Mr Lenihan had originally claimed that only 160 civil servants were exempted from the brunt of the pay cuts.

But it has since emerged there are 231 directors of services in local authorities; 160 assistant secretaries in the civil service; 124 senior HSE officials; 60 senior gardai; 34 city and county managers; 21 state agency chiefs and 12 senior army officers.

A Fine Gael spokesman said the party would "provide Deputy McGrath and any of his colleagues an opportunity to actually vote with their conscience on an issue of equity and fairness. We hope they take that opportunity," the spokesman added.

But on Tuesday night, Mr McGrath had to withdraw his motion to put the pay-cuts issue to a vote of the parliamentary party -- because he could not get any of his colleagues to second it.

Áine Kerr

Irish Independent

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