President diverts funds to pay for extra advisers

Michael D Higgins has diverted part of the presidential funding provided by taxpayers to increase the number of advisers he has compared to his predecessor Mary McAleese.

Negotiations with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform resulted in Kevin McCarthy being appointed to the extra post of executive assistant, with his salary of €49,000 coming from monies re-allocated from the non-wages portion of the president’s allowance.

Mr McCarthy, a former aide to his cousin, Labour Cork TD Michael McCarthy, was chauffeur for Mr Higgins during the presidential campaign of 2011.

An internal memo from the department released under freedom of information, stated: “The president’s office is satisfied that the extra costs could be met from within the existing overall allocation for the president’s vote, through the switching of funds from non-pay.”

The sudden, and yet to be fully explained, resignation of special adviser Mary van Lieshout thrust attention onto the inner workings of the office.

Her appointment on a three-year contract in Feb 2012 needed the approval of the department as her salary of €103,472 was well above the public sector pay limit of €80,051.

Aziliz Gouez was appointed speech writer earlier this year after working on the staff of French president François Hollande, and is paid €65,000.

Mr Higgins’ communication’s chief Sarah Martin is paid €75,934 a year.

The president has been accused of testing the non-party political boundaries of the office since his election after wading into controversies regarding the austerity agenda and being accused of favouring left wing economists in his speeches.


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