Friday 23 March 2018

Ministers round on Donohoe in pay row

'No proper consultation as hike scrapped,' say sources

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Niall O'Connor, John Downing, Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael ministers have rounded on Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe over his handling of the decision to scrap the pay hikes they were due under the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

In a rare occurrence, both Cabinet and junior ministerial sources have voiced anger over the fact they were not consulted over the move before it was announced by Mr Donohoe.

The Dublin Central TD announced that all ministers will forego their pay rises.

This will mean that members of Cabinet lose out on pay hikes next year of just under €4,000.

And ministers of state, who were told of the decision by Mr Donohoe personally after the meeting ended, will lose out on €2,800.

But TDs will be allowed to make up their own minds in relation to whether they forego their pay increase, which is set to be just over €2,700 next year.

However, the handling of the move has angered several Fine Gael ministers, a number of whom said they first learned of the decision through the media.

Others said they should have been given the chance to discuss the matter first with their families.

The blame has also been pointed at Mr Donohoe's department, with ministers claiming there should have been a full consultation before a decision was made.

On Monday evening, several junior ministers told the Irish Independent that they intended to accept the pay hikes due in April - before being told yesterday that they too must forego the money.

One Cabinet source described the handling of the matter as a "fiasco", while a second minister said it led to him receiving a backlash from his constituents last week.

There is also disquiet in Fine Gael over remarks made by super junior minister Finian McGrath over the issue.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr McGrath said all TDs should stop "whingeing" and forego the increase.

Finally, at yesterday's Cabinet meeting it was agreed that all ministers, both senior and junior, will not get the pay hikes.

It was hoped the move would draw a line under the controversy that has raged since it emerged ministers were entitled to pay restoration worth €11,735 between next April and April 2019.

Mr Donohoe told reporters that no office holder will receive any increase.

"All office holders at both minister and minister of state level will forfeit the wage restoration that is due to happen under the Lansdowne Road Agreement. That decision was reaffirmed by Cabinet and it has now been reaffirmed by the ministers of state," Mr Donohoe said at a press briefing at Government Buildings.

He said an "administrative device" was agreed which will ensure ministers' take home pay does not change.

"The way we are going to work that...we have had to come up with an administrative device to deal with that. So from next April, the TDs' portion of their salary will increase and what we will do is we will decrease their ministerial salary by a larger amount to make sure their take-home pay does not change," Mr Donohoe added.

Backbench TDs will continue to be asked whether they will forego their pay hikes after a number of deputies said it is their intention.

These include Dublin North West TD Noel Rock and Roscommon/Galway deputy Michael Fitzmaurice.

"In relation to TDs, I continue to believe that the best framework for dealing with the pay of TDs is that it is anchored with payments to principal officers," Mr Donohoe said.

"The reason why I believe that is if we don't use that anchor, we will end back with politicians determining what other politicians are paid.

"That is not the right way to deal with something as sensitive as politicians' pay," he added.

Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin called for an "annual discussion" on TDs' pay.

"TDs, after years and years of discussions about what was the appropriate rate, are linked to the grade of principal officer in the public service. I think we should not politicise the pay of TDs by disconnecting that now and then having an annual discussion about it."

Irish Independent

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