Friday 23 March 2018

Burton's kitchen cabinet on salary package of €500,000

Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton
Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

Tanaiste Joan Burton's team of advisers will cost the taxpayer more than €500,000 a year, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.

The Labour Party leader's kitchen cabinet will be made up of five staff:

* Chief of Staff Ed Brophy on €144,550;

*  Economic Adviser Terry Quinn on €114,425;

* Deputy Government Press Secretary Paul O'Brien on €93,297;

* Special Adviser Karen O'Connell on €81,080;

* Special Adviser Claire Power on €81,080.

The cost is €40,000 less than the comparable team employed by former Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore.

Ms Burton's team's combined salaries will cost €514,432, compared to the €555,954 paid to their predecessors.

Ms Gilmore's staff were previously on salaries worth a total of €578,016 and was also made up of a Chief Adviser, Economic Advisor, Deputy Government Press Secretary and two Special Advisers.

Mr Brophy, Mr O'Brien and Ms O'Connell worked with the Tanaiste when she was Social Protection Minister.

Mr Quinn joins from the Central Bank and Ms Power comes from the Labour Party research office.

The Government has attracted considerable criticism for the breaking of salary caps for advisers' pay.

However, it is understood the Government limits on salaries and numbers of advisers are not applicable to the Taoiseach and Tanaiste.

Ms Burton will not be appointing a new adviser at the Department of Social Protection, as Mr Brophy will double-up, keeping an eye on social welfare policy.

When Mr Brophy was first appointed by Ms Burton, he came in from the private sector, where it is believed his salary was €200,000 a year.

His salary in the Tanaiste's office will still be a quarter below his old private-sector salary.

Mr O'Brien will also continue to serve as press adviser for the Department of Social Protection.

Mr Quinn is on secondment from the Central Bank, on the same salary level.

Ms O'Connell and Ms Power have been appointed at the first level of the civil service Principal Officer scale, as is standard for such positions.

Mr O'Brien has been appointed at the fourth point on the scale, which is the same salary as his predecessor who worked for Mr Gilmore.

But his salary is understood to be lower than previous occupants of the role before this Government.

As he works as Deputy Government Press Secretary, Mr O'Brien will actually be paid by the Department of the Taoiseach, but he will serve on Ms Burton's team.

Ms Burton will be working out of two offices as she combines her role as Tanaiste and Social Protection Minister. She has taken over the suite of offices traditionally occupied by the Tanaiste on the ministerial corridor, which connects Government Buildings with Leinster House.

She will also continue to have her office in Aras Mhic Dhiarmada, over Busaras on Store Street in Dublin city centre.

Aside from her role as deputy leader of the Government, the Tanaiste has a busy agenda in the Department of Social Protection.

The Tanaiste is under particular pressure to take steps to get the long-term unemployed back to work.

She is looking at so-called poverty traps, which prevent people from taking up low-paying jobs because they will lose welfare benefits.

A double whammy of incentives is planned to make it worthwhile for parents to get off the dole and into work.

Unemployed parents who get a job will be able to retain two key social welfare payments to support families for up to a year, under proposals being finalised.

Movement is expected on allowances paid to parents to help cover the cost of raising their children, which are worth more than €3,000 for a family of two adults and two children.

Changes to rent supplement, which is worth an average of €4,500 a year, are also aimed at supporting parents trying to get back to work.

The plan is to allow people who go back to work to retain some of the key welfare top-ups they receive while on the dole.

Irish Independent

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