A HOST of highly paid ministerial advisers will see their salaries significantly rise during the lifetime of this Government through controversial incremental pay increases, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
In stark contrast to the Government's previous claims that increments affected only the lower pay grades of the public service, it has been confirmed that 23 advisers, all of whom are earning in excess of €80,000 a year, will each end this Government's term on salaries of €92,672, should it go the full five years.
The payment of increments, which cost about €250m a year, has been called into question by several government backbenchers who have said they are not sustainable when frontline services are under severe attack.
Under the current rules, advisers who started at the bottom level of the principal officer grade received a salary of €80,051. After 12 months, that salary will increase to €83,337; after two years it goes up to €86,604; after three it's €89,898 and then it goes to €92,672.
Those advisers entitled to the pay increases, with their ministers in brackets, are Aine Kilroy (Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney); Peter O'Sullivan (Attorney General Maire Whelan); Finbar O'Malley (Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte); Sean Mac Cartaigh and James Kenny (Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan); Marrion Mannion (Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald); Mark O'Doherty (Chief Whip Paul Kehoe); and Deirdre Grant (Education Minister Ruairi Quinn).
Also entitled to the increases are Conor Quinn (Jobs Minister Richard Bruton); Claire Langton (Environment Minister Phil Hogan); Aidan Culhane (Junior Minister Jan O'Sullivan); Mary Kenny and Eoin Dorgan (Finance Minister Michael Noonan); Anne Byrne (Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin); Jean O'Mahony (Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore); Sean Faughnan (Health Minister James Reilly); Jane Lehane and Tom Cooney (Justice Minister Alan Shatter); Kathleen Barrington (Social Protection Minister Joan Burton); Paul O'Brien and Angela Flanagan (Taoiseach Enda Kenny) and Nick Miller (Transport Minister Leo Varadkar).
A further three advisers -- Jennifer Carrol McNeill, William Lavelle and Maeve Ann Wren -- who work on half-salary, €40,025, are also entitled to the length-of-service pay increases.
Other senior advisers, whose appointments breached the Government's own rules -- including Ciaran Conlon (who got a €35,000 salary top-up) -- are not entitled to increments.
An increasing number of Fine Gael TDs have called into question the payment of increments in recent weeks, following the revelation by this newspaper that €1bn of taxpayers' money had been spent on such increases since the beginning of the recession in 2007.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris has said the rationale for paying increments has to be explored.
"Increments and their payment are the elephant in the room," he said. "We have to have a real debate about pay, but increments must be put on the table."
His fellow Public Accounts Committee member, Paschal Donohoe, has also questioned the continued payment of increments.
"In light of the pressures on our frontline services in schools and hospitals, there is considerable merit in halting the payment of these at the moment," he said.
Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has repeatedly defended the payment of increments on the grounds that there are fairer ways of controlling public pay.
Mr Howlin, a Labour minister, said that by stopping increments the Government would be "freezing the pay of the lowest (paid), while others on higher pay, who have already received increments, would remain untouched".
He added: "In truth, there are fairer ways of ensuring that we control the cost of public pay."