IT’S “not easy” for senators with families to get by on €65,000 a year, Seanad leader Donie Cassidy has said.
The Fianna Fáil senator said his colleagues had been hit by both a pay cut and the public service pension levy since the economic crisis began, which made it particularly difficult for younger senators raising children.
“Most of the members of the Seanad are full-time politicians and they don’t have any other income,” he said. “They have taken a pay cut and then have to pay their levies. It’s not easy.”
He acknowledged that €65,000 was a salary people could “live on” and said senators had always been willing to lead by example in taking cuts.
Mr Cassidy himself is on the basic salary of €65,621, because as leader of the House, he automatically forfeits increments. However, he receives an allowance of €19,439 on top of salary to cover the additional costs of his role, bringing his total salary to €85,060.
But he suggested there was a “race to the bottom” in terms of cutting politicians’ pay and pointed out that senators earned much less than judges.
“We’re at the very low end in the public service even though we’re the protectors of the Constitution and we ensure that every section of legislation is gone through line by line. And it’s also our job to hold the Dáil accountable – only the Seanad can do that,” the senator said.
“We have to lead by example and we have done that. We’re prepared to play our part in the national interest, but all higher earners in the public sector – like judges – have to pay their fair share.”
The Government decided, because of legal advice, not to impose either the public service pay cut or pension levy on judges, although some judges have volunteered to pay the levy.
New senators are paid €65,621 a year and will no longer benefit from long-service increments, which have been abolished by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.
However, long-serving senators who were already on increments prior to Mr Lenihan’s decision have retained them, meaning they earn €67,634 if they have served between seven and 10 years and €69,647 if they have served more than 10 years.
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