Taoiseach’s top advisers to be paid salary of €170,000

THE Taoiseach’s top two advisers have been awarded salaries of almost €170,000 each — the same wages paid to senior Government ministers.

A team of four special advisers appointed to Enda Kenny’s “kitchen cabinet” will cost the taxpayer €440,000 a year.

The figures do not include the Government press secretary Eoghan Ó Neachtain, who was paid a salary of €138,655 last year.

Mark Kennelly, who has been a constant presence at Mr Kenny’s side since the February election, is being paid a salary of €168,000.

The same salary is being paid to Andrew McDowell, who joined Fine Gael as its main economic adviser four years ago.

The wages put both men almost on the same salary scale as Government ministers who earn €169,000.

Mr Kenny also took former policy advisers in Fine Gael, Paul O’Brien and Angela Flanagan, with him to the Taoiseach’s office, with salaries of €80,051 each as special advisers.

Mr Kenny has said the special advisers are “tasked with giving me advice and keeping me informed on a wide range of issues, as well as performing such other functions as may be directed by me from time to time”.

The salaries are lower than those paid to advisers of his predecessor, Brian Cowen.

The highest paid adviser in the previous administration was Prof Peter Clinch of UCD, who received €181,243 last year followed by Oliver O’Connor, who earned €156,241 and Brian Murphy, the Taoiseach’s speech writer, who received €131,687.

Wages were even higher during the height of the boom when Bertie Ahern’s programme manager, Joe Lennon, had a salary of €221,929

By contrast, in Britain, the highest paid adviser earned €164,000 last year.

The system of special advisers was introduced in the Fianna Fáil-Labour government of 1992.

In response to a Dáil question this week from Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, the Taoiseach said Mr Kennelly “among his other duties, will work closely with the Northern Ireland division of my department to ensure that I am fully briefed on all developments”.

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