Tuesday 20 August 2019

Revolving city mayors debate around salaries would be "real tragedy" - Coveney

Directly elected mayor salary could be up to €130,000

Tanaiste Simon Coveney
Tanaiste Simon Coveney
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said it would be a "real tragedy" if the debate about bringing in directly elected mayors becomes about the salary they would be paid

Fine Gael is pushing for a 'Yes' vote in plebiscites in Cork, Limerick and Waterford on whether or not to have directly elected mayors with salaries of up to €130,000 - similar to that paid to a junior minister.

Mr Coveney and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar both defended the salary when asked how to fight against the perception that it's "jobs for the boys" who'll have a very high salary.

It came at a Fine Gael public meeting in Cork which was earlier disrupted by left-wing protesters.

Mr Coveney said Cork City Council's annual Budget is €166m and Fine Gael want to bring in a full-time mayor with a lot of power on how that money is spent and investment can be brought into the city.

 "It would be a real tragedy I think if the debate around the directly elected mayor becomes about whether somebody is paid €50,000, €80,000 or €100,000-a-year given the scale of the influence and the financial value of that influence to the city," he said.

He said the salary for the role would be a "tiny amount" as a percentage of the city council spend and no one would be questioning it if it was for another manager in the local authority.

Mr Coveney added: "sometimes we attach a different standard to politicians than we do to public servants and the civil service".

He said the cost is "slightly higher" than the existing Lord Mayor's office but it won't result in the building of less house or less footpaths and public lighting.

Earlier Mr Varadkar had said that he imagines some council officials are already paid more than the proposed salary for a directly elected mayor and "yet they're able to find that money".

He said the decision on how much they would be paid could have been left open.

"We know that;'s always an issue.

"Nobody likes the idea of politicians being paid, certainly not being paid more, and I understand why that is but you know if this is a real job with real power and real influence then it should come with a salary that matches that.

"That is why we decided to pitch it somewhere around the level of a Minister of State.

He compared the salary on offer to that of a school principle, a Garda inspector or people running organisations in the private sector with fewer employees and a smaller budget than Cork City Council.

Mr Varadkar is in Limerick today where he plans to campaign for a directly elected mayor there as well.

Read more here:

Taoiseach's meeting dramatically suspended due to protesters - moments after rebellious farmers round on 'vegan Leo' 'Trying to shout people down is profoundly anti-democratic' - Varadkar responds as meeting disrupted by protesters

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