German MP's shock at level of TDs' pay
He gets €57,000 less in wages and allowances
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan has signalled his intention to clean up Ireland's financial sector.
But he might be advised to take a look closer to home -- at our top-heavy political system -- in his drive to secure badly needed savings.
One German MP has expressed amazement at the salaries paid to our politicians and senior civil servants.
Hans Joachim Fuchtel was paid €92,000 to represent 280,000 people in Germany's Black Forest region, while our TDs get more than €100,000 to represent 25,000 people each.
"My constituency is 280,000 people. For a member of the Irish parliament, it's smaller but the salaries seem to be much better," he told the Irish Independent.
Mr Fuchtel is also limited to claiming a maximum of €44,400 in taxable expenses every year, whereas our TDs claim about €67,000 each.
He also gets an annual grant of €14,000 to pay for his staff -- yet TDs are supplied with both a full-time secretary and a parliamentary researcher at a cost to the taxpayer of at least €40,000. Overall that means he receives around €57,000 less in wages, expenses and allowances than his Irish equivalent.
During his visit for St Patrick's Day day, Mr Fuchtel said Irish people might be surprised to learn that Irish politicians were paid far more than their German counterparts.
"And it's the same with our Chancellor Angela Merkel -- she has a €250,000 salary. She doesn't have as much as the head of a middle-sized bank -- it's very modest."
Taoiseach Brian Cowen is paid €257,024, but this will be reduced by the 9.6pc public sector pension levy which applies to the highest earners.
Mr Fuchtel is a member of the German Parliament's powerful finance committee and is known as the 'King of the Black Forest' for his record in being re-elected continuously since 1987.
He supplements his income through working as a divorce lawyer -- but says that most of the 635 German MPs in the Bundestag (German Parliament) are full-time politicians.
"If you have another job, you have to declare everything to your parliament president and then everybody can read it on the internet," he said.
A letter writer to the Irish Independent last week quoted an article from one of Germany's leading national newspapers, 'Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung'.
It wrote that the German government had been taking a precautionary look at the Irish budgetary arrangements under the magnifying glass.
It said German officials had discovered "the Irish prime minister earns three times as much as the German chancellor" and that "there is a lot of room for economising".
Although their figures are incorrect (Mr Cowen's salary is not three times more than Ms Merkel's), it is a signal that Germany is not willing to provide a blank cheque for any financial bailout of the Irish state.
Mr Fuchtel said Germans wanted to see other countries take measures to deal with their own economic difficulties.
But he said cutting the salaries of Irish politicians would not be a condition for any German bailout.