Monday 26 August 2019

Pay caps for government advisors is breached but no such deal for public

Roll back in your mind to 2011 if you will for a second.

The country was in a desperate state in the midst of a bailout from the troika and our national esteem following the excess and reckless days of the Celtic Tiger was on the floor.

A General Election was called and with Fianna Fail and the Green Party coalition having fallen asunder, Fine Gael were racing certainities to enter government. The only question was could they achieve an overall majority or would they need the assistance of the Labour party.

We know the result of that particular act, as Fine Gael fell just short of the first single party government since Fianna Fail in xxxx and needed the added heave-ho of the Labour TD's to return to government.

In those electioneering days and in the first blush of new government Fine Gael promised much. Addressing the issues of the bailout and creating jobs were the top priorities, but also high on the list was tackling the cronyism and excess which had become epidemic in Irish politics.

Ministerial pay was cut and the perk of the ministerial merc was cut from all but the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Minister of Justice, while pay caps were imposed on the legions of special advisors which have become common place in the offices of governmental ministers.

Now roll forward to last week when it was revealed that the government has been breaching these pay caps for their special advisors. Bit by bit, special circumstances by special circumstances, the pay scale has been breached.

Recent salary increases for Special Advisors are in direct breach of Cabinet Guidelines. An Adviser to Environment Minister Alan Kelly was paid €85,750, €5,000 above the recommended level.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan sought to have an adviser paid €3,000 more than the Cabinet guideline and after a short delay Minister Howlin granted this increase.

Minister Alex White had an adviser put on a salary of €91,624. This was €12,000 higher than the salary originally offered. Minister Simon Coveney secured a €25,000 salary increase last July for an adviser.

Last week, Louth TD Gerry Adams argued, 'The Government is living in a bubble, a golden circle. The Taoiseach is paid more than the President of France. The Tánaiste's chief of staff gets a salary of €144,550, nearly as much as the President of France. Her economic adviser is on €114,424. Joan Burton sought to have her former PA put on a salary of €79,401. She eventually settled for €75,647.

Also last week, Senator Jim D'Arcy argued that the overall cost of Special Advisors to the Government has decreased by 20% in comparison to the final days of the previous government in 2011, while the total cost of the Taoiseach's own special advisors has fallen by 47% in the same period.

Senator D'Arcy might be correct about the overall figures but it still galling to hear the scale of increases to governmental advisors when no such generosity is being extended to the wider public, either through reduced taxation levels or increases in social welfare allowances.

It seems the pledges of Fine Gael to reform the political structures have slipped off their pious pedestal.

Irish Independent