SINN FEIN is coming under internal pressure to relax its strict "industrial-wage policy" which is leaving some of its TDs hard up.
It has been a proud boast of the party since the policy was introduced in the late 1980s that all its TDs and senators are paid no more than €34,000 out of their €92,000 salary.
After tax and pension levies, the balance works out at around €18,000 which is used to pay for additional constituency staff.
The funds are paid directly to these activists rather than being routed through the party. This arrangement gets around restrictions on political donations.
The set-up was designed to keep its politicians "grounded" as well as provide funds for party activities.
But there are now signs that not all of the new TDs who have boosted the party's Dail numbers are happy with it.
Cork East TD Sandra McLellan recently revealed how she was finding it tough to afford hair and make-up on the €34,000 salary. She has three children, including a daughter in university and a husband who has been made redundant.
Her colleague, Sinn Fein foreign affairs spokesman Padraig Mac Lochlainn predicted the policy may have to be reviewed.
"We mightn't have this policy forever. It's one that has caused difficulties for our representatives at times. If you've a large family or somebody going to university, it has been a real challenge," he said.
Mr Mac Lochlainn gets a salary of €29,900 per year after tax or €575 net per week. He emphasised that while he agreed with the party's policy, it had wrongly led to voters thinking that Sinn Fein wanted everyone to earn the same salary.
"This policy has never won Sinn Fein any votes. People think 'I don't want to live in a world where I earn the same as the fellow over there who doesn't work half as many hours'."
Sinn Fein Dublin North West TD Dessie Ellis said the industrial wage was party policy. But he admitted that it was "very problematic" to operate.
"Sinn Fein TDs and senators believe that the policy of drawing the average wage is important in enabling them to continue to identify with the daily economic reality and experience of the vast majority of citizens," the party said in a statement.
SF HAS LOST NONE OF ITS RUTHLESSNESS: PAGE 32