Fianna Fáil TDs and ministers hit out at RTÉ’s top earners yesterday in what was seen as an attempt to distract from savage cuts to social welfare voted through the Dáil last night.
Speaking ahead of the vote that gave legal effect to the cuts, Minister for Social Protection, Eamon Ó Cuív, said RTÉ presenters were being paid “horrendous salaries”.
The minister said these were up to six times politicians’ pay, and “should be looked at by the relevant people”.
Pat Kenny is the highest earning RTÉ star at €850,000 in 2008 — the latest year for which figures are available. Other top earners include Late Late Show presenter, Ryan Tubridy, who is paid €533,000 a year, Marian Finucane who earns €570,000 and Joe Duffy on €408,000.
These salaries cannot be interfered with by the Government because stars are “self-employed” and hold contracts with the national broadcaster, the secretary general of the Department of Communications confirmed.
Aidan Dunning told the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the salaries were an “operational matter between RTÉ management and the individuals in question”.
“A lot of the people at the top scale are in a different category because they have established themselves as self-employed,” he said.
Mr Dunning was responding to questioning from FF TD, Brendan Kenneally, who said “this self-employed status is only a device to get around pay cuts”.
The Waterford deputy, who himself will not suffer a pay cut in the budget as TDs’ pay was left untouched, said: “Some of their frontline presenters earn very large salaries.”
RTÉ last night confirmed its incoming director general, Noel Curran, will comply with the €250,000 ceiling, representing a cut from the current salary of €261,000 which was voluntarily reduced from a contractual entitlement of €297,973.
RTÉ said it will comply with any cap on salaried staff pay, but these provisions “do not relate to fee-paid contractors”.
In an earlier interview on Morning Ireland Mr Ó Cuív said: “All of us, whether working for the Government, or RTÉ or anyone else, have to think about the greater good.”
Mr Dunning told the committee his department has not yet received instructions from the Department of Finance in relation to the salary cap. The department oversees the ESB, whose chief executive, Padraig McManus, received a total of €752,568 last year.