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Sunday 25 February 2018

Fine Gael Aras hopefuls voted against freeze on MEP wages

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

TWO presidential candidates voted against a European Parliament proposal to freeze the salaries and expenses of MEPs.

Fine Gael hopefuls Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell voted against the amendment to the European Parliament's Budget in April, along with two-thirds of Irish MEPs.

Details of the vote come after both Mr Mitchell and Ms McGuinness were among a similar number of Irish MEPs who last week refused to release details of their expenses and allowance claims.

And both moves are likely to be seized on by rivals inside and outside the party as the battle for the Aras hots up. The amendment, which was defeated, read: "The Budget line on salaries and allowances of MEPs should not be updated in 2012. Savings in parliament should start by its own members."

It was tabled by the left wing GUE-NGL group, and was supported by Labour MEPs Proinsias de Rossa and Nessa Childers, Socialist Dublin MEP Paul Murphy, and Independent MEP Marian Harkin.

However, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael MEPs voted it down.

And while no concrete proposals have been mooted for an increase, some MEPs wanted a pay freeze officially put in place in case a wage hike was suggested.

Pay rises for all EU staff are set by a legally binding calculation based on civil service pay averages in the eight wealthiest European countries, and a cost-of-living index for Brussels.

The wages of MEPs are automatically set at 38.5pc of the salary of EU judges.

MEPs are also entitled to claim for a raft of expenses -- including transport and staff costs -- and these can total up to €400,000 a year.

Yesterday, Ms McGuinness said she could not remember the vote and would have to consult office records. Mr Mitchell said he voted against the amendment because it was "not possible to implement".

"MEPs' salaries are set at 38.5pc of the basic salary of a judge by law. You can't change it without varying the law and to open the law would be to open the whole question of the rate of salary," the Dublin MEP said.

"So the amendment was not possible to implement."

Ms Childers said she and Mr De Rossa voted for the amendment because they couldn't justify voting against it when people were struggling in Ireland.

Ms Harkin, an MEP for Ireland North-West, also said voting for the amendment sent out the right signal to people struggling at home.

An MEP's annual salary is around €96,000.

Irish Independent

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