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Pay hikes for super juniors are branded as 'disgusting'

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Jack Chambers. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Jack Chambers. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Jack Chambers. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A Government decision to change laws to allow pay hikes for ministers of State days before they go on their summer holidays has been branded "disgusting" and "greedy".

The Coalition pushed through the legislative change to allow three ministers of State to get a €16,229 allowance for attending Cabinet meetings.

The move means Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers, who is the Chief Whip, and Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton, who is Minister of State for Transport, will have taxpayer-funded salaries totalling €151,204 a year.

Meanwhile, the third so-called super junior minister, Pippa Hackett, who is a failed Green Party General Election candidate, will receive €123,186 as a senator. All three will receive the top-up after their parties voted for the change of law - one day after the Government announced swiping cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Furious Opposition TDs branded the allowance as an insult to frontline workers who received an applause rather than pay increase from the Government for their efforts during the Covid health crisis.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said the move was "beyond shameful" and without justification. "Anybody who votes for this can not look a staff nurse in the eye anymore. You are pulling a stroke here. You were quick to clap those frontline workers, but this is a slap in their face. The brass neck of that is galling."

Paul Murphy, the Rise TD, said the move came "at a time when in one in four people in this country is unemployed at a time of great crisis".

"You look at the actions of this Government - cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, a vote to gut a motion in support of the Debenhams workers, and a miserly decision to only extend the eviction ban to August - yet a majority in this Dáil will vote through a pay increase for an already very well-paid person," he added.

Sinn Féin Mayo TD Rose Conway Walsh said it was the most devious thing she had witnessed in politics to date. There was a "circle of greed" between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens and it was absolutely shameful.

Meanwhile, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath claimed he cannot recall his party preventing the last government from changing legislation to give three ministers of State a €16,000 taxpayer-funded top-up.

It comes after Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he could not remember the Cabinet signing off on the pay hike legislation despite sitting at the meeting only hours earlier.

Mr McGrath tried to dismiss suggestions his party blocked the exact same super junior minister top-up until he was read an official Fianna Fáil press statement which specifically said it would stop any law passing through the Dáil allowing for the additional allowance.

Asked about Fianna Fáil preventing former super junior minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor from receiving the payment, Mr McGrath dismissed the question saying: "It wasn't brought before the Oireachtas the last time."

He also raised questions about the accuracy of media reports which said Fianna Fáil was blocking the pay hike by the last government. However, he was then made aware of a Fianna Fáil press release saying the party will "block any effort to fund addition super junior position".

"I don't recall that being discussed is the straight answer and it was never put the before the Oireachtas," Mr McGrath added.

Despite his party preventing Ms Mitchell O'Connor from receiving the payment, the minister said it is now "appropriate" that all three ministers of State in his Government should receive the payment.

Irish Independent