| 17.4°C Dublin

A word in your ear, Tanaiste... four advisers costing €500k a year is probably too many

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has hired a new spin doctor on top of the three already employed in his offices, the Herald can reveal.

It's emerged that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has appointed former journalist Niamh Sweeney on an annual salary of just over €80,000.

Fianna Fail has described the recruitment of another adviser as a "scandal" just as the country prepares for yet another austerity budget. They note that the salary would pay for up to 8,000 home-help hours.

The Labour leader now has four advisors who are paid a total of almost €500,000.

A spokesman for Mr Gilmore confirmed that ex-RTE reporter Niamh Sweeney took up the position last week and will advise the Labour leader in areas of foreign affairs and trade. Ms Sweeney has been handed a salary of €80,051 -- the first point of the pay scale for principal officers in the Civil Service.

"The appointment has been made in line with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines relating to ministerial appointments and Ms Sweeney's salary has been set at the base point of the Principal Officer standard scale," a spokesman for Mr Gilmore said.

Mr Gilmore already has three spin doctors working for him.

The Labour leader's 'chief adviser', Mark Garrett, earns €168,000, while his 'economic adviser', Colm O'Reardon, is paid €155,000.

And last year Mr Gilmore hired Jean O'Mahony as a 'special adviser' -- who now earns €83,337. Fianna Fail Dublin spokes-person and leader in the Seanad, Darragh O'Brien, said the hiring of the adviser was a "scandal" given that the budget is just three weeks away.

"The revelation that Eamon Gilmore is to take on a fourth special adviser on a salary of €80k plus, just weeks before another savage budget, is genuinely unbelievable.

"As the Cabinet sits down to debate how many elderly people should lose home-help hours and how many hospital beds they are going to close, the Labour Party leader thinks that yet another highly paid special adviser for his personal use is a spending priority?

"This is a scandal," he said.