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Reilly set to lobby minister for ¤137k deal for his adviser

A NEW adviser to Health Minister James Reilly could get a pay packet of €137,000 despite receiving a golden handshake of €417,000 when she left the public sector in 2005.

Minister Reilly is set to lobby his Cabinet colleague Brendan Howlin to secure a lucrative pay deal for his new policy adviser, Maureen Windle.

The Herald has learned that the Health Minister will replace his former €80,000-a-year adviser with an ex-Health board executive who stands to take home almost €137,000 annually.

The minister will continue discussions with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin to ensure Ms Windle is paid a salary of €92,682 -- the highest scale for ministers' advisers.

However, current pay rules mean that she will still be entitled to a portion of the pension she received after leaving the Health Service in 2005.

It means that Ms Windle stands to earn almost €137,000 annually from the taxpayer -- matching her previous salary as chief executive of the Northern Area Health Board.

The Department of Health confirmed today that James Reilly's current policy adviser Sean Faughnan is to exit the Department of Health after serving for just over a year.

While a Department spokesperson said that that Mr Faughnan's exit was "pre-arranged", the Herald understands that there was "dissatisfaction" that the minister's efforts to secure a higher salary were consistently rebuffed by Minister Howlin.

The spokesperson confirmed today that the minister will seek to ensure that Ms Windle is paid a salary of €92,682 -- almost €12,000 more than her predecessor.

Ms Windle left the public sector seven years ago on a staggering golden handshake of €417,000 as well as her annual pension of €68,000.

Current pay rules dictate that Ms Windle cannot earn more than her previous salary of €136,660 as chief executive of the Northern Health Board.

According to the HSE, her severance package in 2005 consisted of:

•A lump sum of €205,092

•A pension of €68,330

•A severance payment of €81,579

•An ex-gratia payment of €61,858.

A Department spokesperson told the Herald: "Negotiations will continue in relation to Maureen Windle's annual salary but it is envisaged that she will be placed at the maximum point of the principal officer's pay scale.

"Her pension entitlements are as a result of her previous role as chief executive of the Northern Area Health Board. This is dictated by abatement rules. Ms Windle has extensive experience in the area of healthcare."

Minister Reilly will be acutely aware of the public outrage over the issue of advisers' pay.

Coalition sources have admitted that the issue was raised extensively on the doorsteps during the fiscal treaty referendum campaign.