Amid mounting criticism from opposition parties over senior and junior ministers’ salary increase, the Taoiseach insisted the recommendations of the Review Body on Pay would be implemented. Asked about the fact that he now earns more than British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US President George W Bush, Mr Ahern emphatically denied that such comparisons could be made. “I’m glad I don’t own Chequers and I don’t have Number 10. If you want to build those in then you know what the figures would be. I certainly don’t want the White House. There is no comparison and I think people will know that.”
The Taoiseach said he was unaware of any public outrage and told journalists that the focus should be diverted to other public service workers who had received increases. “Politicians are 5% of that overall review and I think in the last one the increases weren’t of a very high nature,” he said. “If you [journalists] want to do something good, you should look at the other 95% who you have been dodging for the last 24 hours.”
However, Labour’s Roisín Shortall said there was significant public anger at the huge salary increases granted to the Taoiseach and his ministers. Calling for changes to the terms of reference of the review body, the Labour TD added that if ministers accept the increases, the political system would be seriously damaged. “It is difficult to understand just what Mr Ahern has done to justify a salary level of €310,000, particularly when one looks at the shambolic state of the health service, the mounting crime problem and the failure of the government to ensure school places for our children,” she said.
While supportive of an independent process, she said Labour did not believe anyone would want to return to the situation where governments decided the level of remuneration.
Rowing in, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise association said the Government should invest the €16 million in costs from the increases across the top public service jobs in developing and promoting new business.