Monday 18 December 2017

Majority of TDs to accept €2,700 pay hike, despite calls to sign waiver

Claims from some deputies that accepting pay rise is 'immoral'

Paschal Donohoe asked TDs to gift money back to the State. Photo: Arthur Carron
Paschal Donohoe asked TDs to gift money back to the State. Photo: Arthur Carron
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The recession is over for the vast majority of TDs who will accept a €2,700 boost to their pay packets this week.

Despite calls for politicians to forego wage restoration, a survey by the Irish Independent has found that upward of 90 will be accepting the increase.

The deputies are among thousands of civil servants who, under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, are entitled to start clawing back pay cuts inflicted during the recession.

While Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe asked ministers to voluntarily gift the money back to the State following huge controversy last October, most political parties opted to allow TDs to decide for themselves.

The Irish Independent contacted every TD in recent days to ask about the pay rise. Of the main parties, just two Fine Gael backbenchers and one Fianna Fáil TD confirmed they would not take the increase.

Sinn Féin has instructed all 23 of its TDs to sign waiver forms allowing the State to recoup the money.

Richard Boyd Barrett. Photo: Tom Burke
Richard Boyd Barrett. Photo: Tom Burke

The Social Democrats' two TDs have said they do not believe now is the time for TDs to get pay restoration.

But Solidarity, the party made up of Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy and Mick Barry, will take the money because they do not want "to return the increase to Finance Minister Michael Noonan to further facilitate more tax breaks for landlords, developers and big business or to pay back bondholders to meet their private gambling debts".

Instead the funds will be diverted to assist campaigns such as Repeal the Eighth.

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny and Bríd Smith intend to do likewise with their first monthly instalment going to support the striking Bus Éireann workers.

Roisin Shortall. Photo: Tom Burke
Roisin Shortall. Photo: Tom Burke

The Labour Party and Green Party have said all of their TDs would accept the increase on the basis that it was tied to that of a principle officer in the civil service - a development that brought an end to the Dáil deciding TD pay levels.

TDs suffered a €5,414 drop in wages, from €92,672 to €87,258, during the recession. As a result, a restoration worth €2,707 kicks in this week, with a similar increase next year.

Ministers would be entitled to even larger amounts but it was agreed that they "should not avail on a personal basis of the pay restoration".

This followed huge controversy in the build-up to the Budget as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil fought a bitter row over the affordability of a €5 increase in social welfare payments.

Sinn Féin subsequently placed a Dáil motion calling on all TDs to forego their restoration - but this was defeated by 89 votes to 38.

However, a mechanism is in place for TDs to voluntarily gift portions of their salary back to the State.

Two Fine Gael TDs, Hildegarde Naughton (Galway West) and Noel Rock, confirmed they have signed waiver forms.

Mr Rock (Dublin North West) suffered a backlash from some colleagues when he publicly announced he would forego the money, but said he still believed it was the right thing to do.

"Under no circumstances can I credibly accept a pay increase while simultaneously explaining to many others why they have yet to materially feel the recovery in their own lives," he said.

Fine Gael colleague Jim Daly (Cork South West) replied to the survey, saying: "I respectfully suggest that what I do with my salary or how I spend it is a matter for myself and does not warrant reporting in a national newspaper."

Meath East TD Thomas Byrne was the only Fianna Fáil deputy to confirm he is gifting the money back to the State. However, six of his party colleagues said they would either donate the money to charity or use it for constituency purposes.

Unfair

Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher (Donegal), Eugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway), Mary Butler (Waterford) and Pat Casey (Wicklow-East Carlow) intend to give their net increase to local charities.

Fiona O'Loughlin (Kildare South) and Declan Breathnach (Louth) said they would use it to enhance representation of their constituencies.

However, Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim) said asking TDs to forego income that is linked to civil service grades "would be unfair in the extreme".

He said: "In the interest of that age-old concept balance it is important to acknowledge that politicians work in most instances up to seven days per week and up to 16 hours per day with few taking any more than three weeks' summer holidays."

The Independent Alliance's four ministers will not receive the hike and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran told the Irish Independent he would turn it down on the basis that "the country is only getting back on its feet".

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath said: "Ministers should lead by example and the money should be used for the most needy in our country."

Four other Independent TDs have also signed waiver forms.

Dublin South Central TD Joan Collins said: "I believe it is immoral of public servants in a privileged position to accept it while workers on low to middle incomes and workers who have started work post 2009 are not receiving pay restoration."

Catherine Connolly (Galway West), Michael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway) and Seamus Healy (Tipperary) also said they would not accept the money.

Where the parties stand on wage rise

Sinn Féin

All 23 TDs have or are finalising the process with the Oireachtas to give the money back to the State.

Labour Party

All seven TDs will accept the pay restoration on the basis that it is linked to that of a principal officer in the civil service.

Independents4Change

Joan Collins said taking the money would be "immoral". Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Tommy Broughan did not reply to the survey.

Solidarity

Three TDs say they only take home the average industrial wage. They will accept the money but say that they intend to donate it to "campaigns such as Repealing the Eighth Amendment, workers on strike, the right to decent housing, the battle against water charges and many more".

People Before Profit

Richard Boyd Barrett said TDs "won't take a cent personally but won't give it back to Michael Noonan to give to his friends in tax breaks". PBP will donate the money to specific causes starting with striking bus workers.

Social Democrats

Both Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall have gifted the money to the State.

Green Party

A party spokesman said: "Rates of pay should be set in accordance with the independent assessment as recommended, and tied to the civil service rates."

Independents

Six Independent ministers have signed waiver forms. Others to confirm they have or will do so are Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Catherine Connolly, Michael Fitzmaurice and Seamus Healy.

Irish Independent

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