Mr Kenny’s remarks provoked anger among lone parent groups and carers for disabled people, after he said there was no need to cut his €185,350 salary as “we’ve cut everything to the bone”.
A group representing lone parents said the remarks would anger people who were struggling financially. “They would react with a lot of anger and disappointment as the small amount they receive, either through social welfare, or work, has been cut,” said Stuart Duffin of the organisation One Family.
“There is a feeling politicians don’t seem to have any idea about what it is like to try and live on a very low income.”
Laois-Offaly Families for Autism chairman Gerry Loughlin branded the remarks “arrogant”, adding: “We are supposed to be an impoverished country, but the losers are the weak and vulnerable in society.”
Mr Kenny made his remarks as he launched the eight-person Low Pay Commission. Asked by the Irish Examiner if he thought he was worth €3,500 a week, Mr Kenny said: “Very much so. Salaries are down 40% in the case of the taoisigh. We’ve cut everything to the bone. And your question is typical.”
On coming to office in March 2011, the Government cut the Taoiseach’s pay from €214,187 to €200,000, and it was cut again in 2013 to €185,350 in line with the Haddington Road Agreement — a cut of 15%.
The salary scale of the Taoiseach peaked in 2007 at €310,000, but was reduced after a public outcry.
Despite cuts, Mr Kenny still earns more than the president of France, who gets €170,000 a year — a similar level earned by British prime minister David Cameron until the Greek election crisis sent the euro plunging against sterling.
Lone parent groups said the remarks are especially untimely as the Government is to abolish the lone parent payment for children over the age of seven from July, a move they say could deprive families of €80 a week.
Mr Kenny’s Government restored the minimum wage cut imposed by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green administration.
However, Mr Kenny would not commit to a specific increase in the €8.65 rate of the minimum wage, saying that it would change “incrementally” over time.
A spokesperson for Mr Kenny said later: “The Taoiseach is not driven by his salary, he is driven by a determination to lead a Government to secure the recovery.”