Sunday 22 April 2018

SF TD who took full salary got €35,800 'golden handshake' from city council

Bizarre tweet to footballer: Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis
Bizarre tweet to footballer: Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Sinn Féin TD who struck a secret deal with the party to be paid more than the average industrial wage got a €35,800 'golden handshake' after giving up a council seat following his election to the Dáil.

Dessie Ellis reached a deal with Sinn Féin to draw down his entire Dáil salary since his election in 2011, telling party bosses the average industrial wage would push his family "below the poverty line".

A TD's salary at the time stood at around €92,000.

The Irish Independent has established that Mr Ellis received a total of €35,800 in gratuity payments from Dublin City Council over two instalments that took place in June and December 2011.

These gratuity payments are made to former councillors after they turn 50. They are taxable and based on their number of years of service in local authorities.

At the time, Sinn Féin said that such payments by new TDs' former councils did not conflict with its then-policy that its public representatives shouldn't earn more than the average industrial wage.

Mr Ellis did not respond to questions on the gratuity payment last night.

He also did not respond when asked about a bizarre 2012 social media post he sent to former Ireland footballer Paul McGrath. In the tweet, Mr Ellis indicated he was indeed taking the average industrial wage.

Mr Ellis directed a Twitter message to Mr McGrath's account saying: "I take home about the same as on average industrial wage as SF TD. Friends and family struggling w/ unemployment."

Earlier this week, Mr Ellis confirmed he has drawn down the entire Dáil salary since his election in 2011. He said the decision was taken due to personal financial matters and that he intends to change his approach to his pay in the future.

"I am working with the party on this matter," Mr Ellis added.

Sinn Féin last night refused to say if any other TDs or senators in the party take salaries greater than the average industrial wage. The party also refused to outline the take-home pay of leader-in-waiting Mary Lou McDonald or outgoing leader Gerry Adams.

A party statement said Sinn Féin reviewed its wage structure in 2016 and that the review recommended a wage rate for TDs.

"It is a matter for the party's elected representatives whether or not they adhere to the recommendation of the party," it said in a statement.

"The party does not oversee the implementation of this recommendation as it is not mandatory."

Following a review of policy, Sinn Féin TDs were to accept €39,500 in take-home pay.

TDs and senators must also pay a €2,500 annual stipend to the party and there's an obligation to spend the remaining portion of the salary on constituency purposes.

Earlier this month, Sinn Féin said its members would not be accepting pay rises due to all TDs under pay restoration that saw their salaries rise from €89,965 to €93,598 from January 1. The party did not respond directly last night when asked if all of its TDs waived the pay increase.

An Oireachtas spokesperson said they could not confirm which TDs did so as this is "personal information".

Irish Independent

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