Sunday 25 February 2018

Kenny issues cabinet 'diktat' to stop sniping over Budget

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night issued a "diktat" to ministers to stop talking in public about the Budget as tensions continued to simmer in the Coalition over public sector pay.

And Mr Kenny insisted higher paid public servants were not getting pay rises -- despite some of his own staff benefiting from salary hikes.

The Taoiseach issued his ultimatum to ministers at a Cabinet meeting in the wake of rows over changes to the Croke Park Agreement and doubts over promises on income tax and social welfare.

He was speaking after comments from ministers Leo Varadkar, Brendan Howlin and Pat Rabbitte. Mr Kenny did not single out any individual ministers in what was described by government sources as a "diktat to stay on message".

Speaking later at a press briefing on mortgage debt, Mr Kenny refused to say what he had told his ministers, but admitted the issue was discussed at Cabinet.

"I would never comment on what happens at a Cabinet meeting. We have a very difficult budget to prepare for and clearly every minister will be fully engaged in this process.

"And, as I said, the budget will not be drafted in public. It is the responsibility, constitutionally, of the Cabinet to deal with this," he said.

Mr Varadkar had kick-started a debate on the controversial public sector pay increments -- and irked the Labour Party by calling for the increases to be stopped.

This, he said, would save up to €200m.

Mr Kenny's own private staff, who he personally appointed, and some of whom are on salaries of more than €100,000, are among those getting the pay increments.

Increments

Official figures show almost 3,000 senior civil servants earning over €70,000 will be paid increments this year.

Mr Kenny's own spindoctors are among the politically-appointed staff in his office who got increments this year.

At least 13 of the Taoiseach's staff got the pay rises amounting to over €31,000.

The Taoiseach's own press adviser, Government Press Secretary Feargal Purcell, is an example, as it emerged last week he got a pay rise of €3,500 this year, bringing his salary up to almost €120,000.

Yet when asked by Independent TD Shane Ross if public servants paid more than €100,000 are being paid increments, Mr Kenny claimed they weren't.

"As I understand this those at the very top do not get increments. There may well be those who are in line for promotion instead of long service increments in some sectors," he said.

The Government Press Secretary said Mr Kenny was possibly referring to civil servants at the top, such as secretaries general, who are not paid increments.

"The facts are certain people earning over €100,000 did earn an increment. I don't think there was any intention to mislead," the spokesman said.

Figures from the body in charge of implementing the Croke Park deal say 2,776 senior civil servants being paid between €70,000 and €150,000 are entitled to increments this year.

Mr Ross called on the Taoiseach to ensure people who are getting "so much money at times of austerity" will be targeted and will have the increments removed when the review of the Croke Park Agreement comes up.

Mr Kenny said the Government had received an independent report on the agreement and this would form part of a "prospectus".

The Taoiseach said the budget for next year will not be finalised in public but a recent review of the Croke Park Agreement will form part of the discussions.

Irish Independent

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