Super-junior pay increase 'made out to be more than it was' - McGrath

Super-junior pay increase 'made out to be more than it was' - McGrath
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath arrives at Dublin Castle for a cabinet meeting. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 21, 2020. See PA story IRISH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fianna Fáil Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has defended the coalition government's ongoing handling of the controversy surrounding pay increases for 'super' junior cabinet ministers. 

The rises come against the backdrop of reductions in Pandemic Unemployment Protection payment for thousands of recipients, and continued uncertainty regarding employment in many sectors affected by the crisis.

Speaking to Cork's RedFM presenter Mick Mulcahy, standing in for the station's usual morning talk anchor, Neil Prendeville, McGrath acknowledged the public reaction to the measures, but claimed the increases had been reported inaccurately.

"Three people were promoted to Minister of State, attending cabinet, two of them were getting an allowance in that position, but a third one was not getting the pay that was relevant for that promotion.

"I think most people understand that you generally get an increase in pay, but for a third person, there was a legal block on that for legislation, so it was decided to remove that, but it got reported as a bump-up in pay for junior ministers.

"But, look, it's caused huge grief, we have acknowledge that, and I think it was made out to be something more than it was. We have to take that on board and respond to that as a public issue."

Mulcahy's questioning then turned to the Haddington Road public-sector wage agreement, and public response to the announcement of an official cut to TDs' salaries after accepting a new rate of pay.

"The previous government for the past number of years opted not to accept the pay restoration that every other public servant was getting, and that added up over a period of time.

"It was a very complicated way of doing it, so when the new government had to be formed, the issues of pay for government and Ministers had to be addressed.

"In the absence of doing nothing, everyone had to be paid the full amount, and so, the decision was made, we would go for a straight 10% pay cut off official pay, and we would not accept the 2% increase due to all public servants on October 1, effectively a 12% paycut.

"The point you're making is that it was different to what had been done, but we thought it was simpler and more straightforward to take a cut off official salary.

"We are in a very privileged position, we are there by virtue of support from the people, it's a great honour to serve in Government, and I'm not there for the money, never have been."

McGrath went on to address the criticisms and controversies of the tripartite coalition's first few weeks in the Dáil.

"Look, this is the cut and thrust of politics, it's been a bumpy start, I can accept that, but we are determined to move on and deal with the issues."

When pressed to put it on the record, McGrath conceded that TDs will be 'marginally' better-off after the measures.

"Very marginally, in the region of €1000 to €1500, but on top of that, we're not taking the 2% increase, so for a minister, that's another €3500 that is not being taken."

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