Friday 19 October 2018

Sinn Féin TD had 'secret' deal with party to draw down full €93,598 salary

Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Dessie Ellis, Gerry Adams and Senator Kathryn Reilly Photo: Tom Burke
Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Dessie Ellis, Gerry Adams and Senator Kathryn Reilly Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

A SINN Féin TD struck a secret deal with the party that allows him to draw down his entire Dáil salary of more than €90,000, we can reveal.

Dublin North West deputy Dessie Ellis told party bosses that he could not afford to accept the average industrial wage, because doing so would push his family "below the poverty line".

Dessie Ellis TD
Dessie Ellis TD

Sinn Féin has for years made a virtue out of its representatives drawing lower wages than its political rivals - a move the party insists illustrates its commitment to the plight of working-class families.

But the Irish Independent has established that the party secretly allowed one of its most senior TDs to flout the policy and withdraw the entire Dáil salary, which rose to from €89,965 to €93,598 on January 1.

Contacted last night, Mr Ellis confirmed that he has drawn down the entire 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.

Mr Ellis, from Finglas, north Dublin, was elected to the Dáil in 2011.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams

But the former IRA prisoner was also alleged in British State papers to have been behind 50 murders - an allegation that he denies.

Following his election to the Dáil, the Irish Independent understands that Mr Ellis told the party in 2011 that he was in financial difficulty. He said at the time that he needed to draw down the entire Dáil salary.

Up until recently, Sinn Féin TDs and senators were asked to hand back €2,500 to the party each year, and accept a take-home pay of around €37,000.

The remaining sum, of around €51,000, is then used for constituency purposes. Sinn Féin launched a review of its pay policy last year which resulted in TDs being allowed to accept a take-home pay of €39,500.

However, the €2,500 annual stipend still applies, as does the obligation to spend the remaining portion of the salary on constituency purposes.

One of the party's former TDs, Cork East's Sandra McLellan, previously complained about being unable to afford basic items such as make-up while living on the reduced pay.

Outgoing president Gerry Adams was also the focus of scrutiny as to how he could afford a holiday home in Donegal on the average industrial wage.

But the revelation that Sinn Féin allowed one of its TDs to flout the policy will place renewed pressure on its de facto leader Mary Lou McDonald.

It will also lead to suggestions that other side deals were struck with TDs which allow them to take home higher salaries than claimed publicly.

In an interview last year, Ms McDonald said she was proud of the tradition of her colleagues only taking the average industrial wage.

The Dublin Central TD said it kept Sinn Féin "rooted" and "real".

Ms McDonald said on the decision to hold a review into the pay policy: "It keeps us rooted, it keeps us real. But we live in the real world and these things have to be reviewed. We will decide on it democratically."

In a statement, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said it was up to TDs if they adhered to the policy. "The Sinn Féin average wage is adhered to on an entirely voluntary basis by the party's elected representatives, and is a matter for them only. Sinn Féin will not discuss the private financial business of any of our elected representatives."

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section