Wednesday 23 October 2019

Varadkar accuses SF of double standards over pay

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

SINN Fein has again been accused of double standards after criticising the pay of Government advisors here – even though its ministerial advisors are on salaries of as much as €107,000 in the North.

Ms Mary Lous McDonald has been one of the strongest critics of the Coalition as it broke its own self-imposed salary cap of €92,000 for advisors.

The party's deputy leader has tabled numerous Dail questions on the issue but has drawn a stinging response from Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar wrote to Ms McDonald pointing out that the special advisor to the north's culture minister, Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin, had her advisor on a pay scale which stretches from €68,261 to €107,000.

But, in a parliamentary response in the northern assembly, Ms Ni Chuilin did not specify exactly what her advisor's wage was, instead sticking to the salary scale.

Mr Varadkar wrote to Ms McDonald last week pointing out the parliamentary answer given in the Stormont Assembly to Jim Allister, an Assembly Member for the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) hardline unionist party.

Mr Allister asked Ms Ni Chuilin how much her special advisor, Mary McArdle, had cost the taxpayer before she left in May 2012.

Salary

Sinn Fein directed queries to Ms Ni Chuilin's culture department, but it said: "This information cannot be released as it is covered by data protection legislation."

The reply to Mr Allister said she was on a pay scale between €67,694 and €106,327, and Mr Varadkar said the scale had risen even further since then.

He also criticised the fact that only a salary scale was provided, rather than the precise wage, as is practice in the Dail.

Ms McDonald's office said they hadn't yet seen Mr Varadkar's letter but would be taking issue with his office as to how the media had got it first.

Sinn Fein in Stormont could not say if Ms McArdle was taking the average wage, which is e34,000 in the Republic, and giving the rest to the party, as is practice in Sinn Fein.

It directed queries to Ms Ni Chuilin's culture department, but it said: "This information cannot be released as it is covered by data protection legislation."

Phoney

But Mr Varadkar accused Sinn Fein of employing "double standards over salaries for their political advisors in the North".

"The weekly shrill attacks on the Government from Deputy McDonald and Deputy Adams are phoney," he said.

Irish Independent

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