TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has defended major increases for top earners in the public service that will be awarded from a week’s time.
He said the Government was legally obliged to restore the pay of consultants and others, who are typically already earning many multiples of the average industrial wage.
Mr Martin was asked on a trip to Mayo as to how it could be justified “at a time when everyone else is expected to don the hairshirt.”
He said: “It’s the case that 90pc of those receiving that would be doctors and consultants” in the health service.
The grant, to those on significant six-figure salaries, was part of the FEMPI restoration process, which has already applied to those earning less in the public service.
FEMPI refers to legislation labelled ‘Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest,” which was introduced in the wake of the economic crash of nearly 14 years ago, when the State was bust and imposed wage cuts on its employees.
Mr Martin said Opposition parties, including Sinn Féin, had called for the full restoration of FEMPI to all public and civil servants back in 2017.
“They called for full restoration at the time, as did the trade union movement,” he said.
The payment of the huge hikes from July 1 for the very highest earners was the fulfilment of a commitment, and a legal obligation, he said.
“It’s the final stage of the restoration of FEMPI, which was brought in during the crash.
“Legally, that is the situation – and there's no circumventing of legal obligations on Government to fulfil," Mr Martin said.
“By law, the Government has to do it, and that's it.”