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'Considerable expense to taxpayers' - Martin, Varadkar and Ryan will employ up to 17 special advisers

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Photo: Julian Behal

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Photo: Julian Behal

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Photo: Julian Behal

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party leader will have up to 17 special advisers between them in Government, the Dáil was told yesterday.

Opposition TDs said it was "irregular" and "incredible" that the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party would share so many special advisers, after details of the appointments were disclosed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin confirmed to the Dáil that an office of the Tánaiste and a new office of the Green Party leader were being set up in Government Buildings.

Mr Martin told TDs that he has appointed a chief of staff, a deputy chief of staff, three special advisers and that he intends to appoint an adviser on economic policy.

Mr Martin also confirmed the new office of the Tánaiste, occupied by Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, would consist of "approximately five or six special advisers". It will include a private office and a policy and programme implementation unit, he said.

A new office of the leader of the Green Party would also be set up in the Department of the Taoiseach and it would "consist of approximately four or five special advisers" to Eamon Ryan, Mr Martin confirmed.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was a "most irregular arrangement" and "absolutely extraordinary", adding: "I'm very concerned that we now have a Holy Trinity of Taoisigh or at least a Holy Trinity of very senior actors located in the Department of An Taoiseach at a considerable expense to the taxpayer."

Labour leader Alan Kelly described it as an "incredible amount of advisers" and also criticised the decision to allow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to retain a State car and a Garda driver.

"Why are you tolerating such excesses?" he asked Mr Martin.

Defending the decisions, Mr Martin said the model for the "tripartite government" went back to when Labour was in government with Fianna Fáil between 1992 and 1994.

He said Labour had been the architect and pioneer of the idea of policy people coming into to "ensure implementation of a programme for government".

Mr Martin said special advisers were to ensure "cohesion, genuine partnership and parity of esteem".

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"It's not about one party lording it over the other and I've made that very clear from the beginning," he said, noting the last government had appointed advisers for the Independent Alliance and Independent Ministers.

He said it was "hardly earth-shattering" that the new Government had one more minister of state than the last government. Mr Martin said he would provide further detail on the adviser appointments and whether they overlapped with the departments for which Mr Varadkar and Mr Ryan are responsible.

Defending the decision to allow the Tánaiste to retain an aide-de-camp, Mr Martin said this was needed to assist Mr Varadkar in his duties and public events he would be attending. Mr Martin said the "security issues" related to Mr Coveney travelling to the North necessitated the use of a State car and a Garda driver.

The Taoiseach also signalled that the law could be changed to allow all three 'super junior' ministers at Cabinet to avail of the €16,000 salary top-up.

"There should be equality between the three, I am not going to tiptoe around that," he said.


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