An overwhelming majority of the Irish people still think the Government is being too soft on top state employees, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Quantum Research nationwide poll.
Eighty-four per cent of those polled do not think the Government is being tough enough with semi-state executives whose pay is totally out of line with the current reality. They wanted to see action taken immediately to bring their pay into line with the current market conditions.
Respondents were disgusted that senior executives were being paid huge salaries and bonuses out of the pubic purse at a time when there were cut backs being made which affected the poorest sections of society.
"How can they pay these bonuses on the one hand and cut those teachers' helpers on the other? If the country was managed right and there was no money wasted, there should be enough for the things that count," one male respondent said.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin is seeking to force senior managers in the NTMA and Nama who earn more than €250,000 a year to take a 15 per cent pay reduction, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Mr Howlin has contacted Finance Minister Michael Noonan, the line minister in charge of the NTMA, to convey his desire for a salary sacrifice and greater clarity as to pay and bonus levels at the agencies.
Fourteen staff at the agency are paid more than €250,000; three are paid between €200,000 and €250,000; and 27 are paid between €150,000 and €200,000, it emerged last week.
A spokesman for Mr Noonan said: "Mr Howlin has set out his intention to engage with Mr Noonan on the issue of pay in the NTMA to ensure there is greater transparency on the issue."
Mr Howlin said he recognised the significant sacrifice made by NTMA chief John Corrigan and Nama boss Brendan McDonagh, who waived their bonuses for last year, but he is demanding further and full transparency as to the inner workings of the agency.
Last week, the Dublin Airport Authority's chief executive Declan Collier rejected a €106,000 bonus payment he had been awarded for last year following a major public outcry and a row with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Varadkar said that the cabinet was taken aback with the bonus revelation when the DAA annual report was presented to cabinet ahead of its publication.
He said it was nothing personal with Mr Collier, and it was somewhat unfortunate that it has been personalised around him, but the Government's view on the issue of bonuses was clear.
He said his cabinet colleagues were "fully supportive of his actions to ensure the bonus wouldn't be paid".
In the wake of the Collier controversy, a host of semi-state bosses, including John Mullins at Bord Gais and Gabriel D'Arcy of Bord na Mona, have indicated they will not be accepting bonuses. It emerged yesterday that Coillte boss David Gunning will not accept the performance-related bonus due to him from last year. This decision follows the high-level row between the agency and the previous government over the paying of a €56,435 bonus to Mr Gunning last December.
There was further outrage yesterday as it emerged that staff at the communications regulator ComReg were paid bonuses of seven per cent for the financial year ended June 30, 2011.
At ComReg, the bonuses are not paid to its three commissioners -- Alex Chisholm, Mike Byrne and John Doherty. Instead, the payments are made to those below commissioner level. In the year to the end of June 2009, the regulator paid wages and salaries of €9.2m to its 119 staff.