Lenihan beats revolt on pay cut exemption
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan quashed a mini-rebellion by Fianna Fail backbenchers last night over his decision to exempt more than 600 senior officials from the full brunt of the public sector pay cuts.
Although many TDs voiced criticisms at last week's parliamentary party meeting, few were willing to do so again in the presence of Mr Lenihan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen -- who was absent last week for the negotiations in the North.
Fianna Fail Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath and Dublin North TD Michael Kennedy were among those who did speak up. But Mr McGrath had to withdraw his motion to put the pay cuts issue to a vote -- because he could not get anyone in the party to second it. He was said last night to be "totally disgusted" with what had happened.
Mr Lenihan had agreed to speak at the parliamentary party meeting to explain why he had exempted senior public servants from full pay cuts of 8--12pc, allowing them to escape with cuts of 3--5pc.
He again used the fact that they had lost a bonus scheme worth up to €17,000 each annually to justify his decision. And he circulated a document to party members with more details.
This included the first full breakdown of the 642 senior public servants affected -- 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.
All of this group had benefited from the bonus scheme that was scrapped last year. But the expert group on higher-level pay set up by Mr Lenihan had recommended they receive an 8pc cut -- even when the scrapped bonus scheme was taken into account.
Although some Fianna Fail backbenchers are still unhappy with Mr Lenihan's decision, few were willing to express their feelings publicly. One rebel backbencher said, "The sheep are back into the shed."
Earlier, Taoiseach Brian Cowen clearly signalled to Fianna Fail backbenchers where he stood on the issue, telling the Dail: "We cannot undermine the Budget.
"The reversing of budgetary decisions that were made two months ago is not an option," he added.
Mr Cowen said the cohort who had avoided the brunt of cuts had a bonus scheme that had been cut and this was taken into account. It was unfair to say the lower paid had received more cuts. "Those decisions have been taken and we must move on," he said.