Mary Mitchell O’Connor won’t be drawn on €16k top-up

Super junior minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has refused to say if she is still seeking a €16,288 salary top-up linked to the role despite the fact that the payment would need new legislation to be passed by the Dáil.

The Fine Gael TD declined to clarify the situation on three occasions during a media briefing at the Department of Education, insisting the issue is “very low down on my agenda”.

In the aftermath of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s cabinet reshuffle last month, there was widespread criticism over the fact that a new super junior minister position had been created for Ms Mitchell O’Connor.

This is because, under existing laws, Government may only appoint two super junior ministers — currently Finian McGrath and Paul Kehoe — who are allowed to sit at cabinet but are not full ministers, due in part to the €16,288 extra payment they receive on top of their €124,439 junior minister salaries.

After Ms Mitchell O’Connor’s appointment was announced, opposition parties made it clear they would not allow the top-up payment to proceed and that any move to force through the extra money would have to be put to a vote in the Dáil.

Asked three times yesterday whether she is still seeking the extra payment in addition to her €124,439 junior minister salary , Ms Mitchell O’Connor declined to clarify the situation.

“I’ll tell you what, I’m just getting to grips with my job, and I’m actually interested, for my constituents, to be sitting at the cabinet table and ensuring the very best will go into education.”

Asked again about whether she is still seeking the extra payment or has waived her right to it, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said “additional payments are very low down on my agenda”.

She said: “I haven’t made a decision,” before adding: “No, no, I haven’t said anything... I changed career to do this, and money isn’t the be-all and never has been for me.”

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