Wednesday 21 August 2019

Coveney gives job to ex-Fine Gael councillor as taxpayer-funded aide

Laura McGonigle: Advisers can be paid up to €90,000
Laura McGonigle: Advisers can be paid up to €90,000
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has hired a former Fine Gael councillor and close political ally as a taxpayer-funded special adviser.

Mr Coveney recently appointed former Cork city councillor Laura McGonigle as one of his back-room team of advisers who are paid in the region of €80,000 to €90,000 per year.

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The Tanaiste's spokesperson yesterday said he did not know how much the former councillor would be paid.

However, he said her "salary will be within guidelines laid down by the Department of Public Expenditure and be publicly available through the usual routes once she starts".

The department's website lists Ms McGonigle as one of the Tanaiste's staff but does not detail her pay. The pay of all other Government advisers is listed on the website.

Mr Coveney's spokesperson also said the Tanaiste's office was "lucky" to have hired Ms McGonigle owing to her "vast experience". Ms McGonigle is a long-time supporter of Mr Coveney and played a pivotal role in the Cork TD's failed Fine Gael leadership campaign.

She also worked as a political aide to Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune while serving on Cork City Council.

Ms Clune managed to be elected to the last seat in Ireland South after the recent European elections and must now wait until Britain leaves the EU to take up her seat in Brussels.

Ms McGonigle served as a Cork city councillor from 2007 to 2019 but did not run in the recent local elections.

Ahead of the vote in May, she said: "I'm not leaving Fine Gael. I love our party and our Fine Gael family - I'm just returning to life as a private citizen."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has come under fire for using Government Buildings to host an event for failed Fine Gael local election candidates.

Mr Varadkar invited unsuccessful Fine Gael candidates to Dublin last week for a wine reception in Government Buildings to discuss the outcome of the election.

Yesterday, Fianna Fail front-bench TD Darragh O'Brien said it was inappropriate for a Taoiseach to use Government Buildings for party political events.

"The lines are always blurred when it comes to Leo and he seems to confuse his responsibilities as Taoiseach of our country and his position as leader of a political party," Mr O'Brien said.

The Fingal TD added: "There is no way a taxpayer- funded facility like Government Buildings should be used to host a party political shindigs for Leo and other Fine Gael pals."

The Taoiseach's spokesperson said: "This was a reception hosted by the Taoiseach for unsuccessful local election candidates to acknowledge the contribution they made to the local elections."

"For reasons of practicality this reception took place in a reception room in government buildings. All costs related to the event were borne by Fine Gael," he added.

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