Micheál Martin defends 'phantom pay cut' as Taoiseach dragged into several Dáil rows

Micheál Martin defends 'phantom pay cut' as Taoiseach dragged into several Dáil rows
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has defended TDs pay and entitlements. File Picture.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has defended pay cuts for government figures and stood over salaries for politicians as the Dáil was engulfed in a row over TD pay.

The coalition leader was dragged into several rows in the chamber over ministerial pay, cuts to emergency pandemic payments and resources for Cabinet members.

The bitter exchanges came after he was forced to defend the 10% cut in salaries applied to government figures, as announced this week. The move still leaves ministers better off than their predecessors.

While the last Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, was on a salary of €185,350 after waiving public pay increases, Mr Martin's will exceed this, even after factoring in the recently announced cuts.

The move has been dismissed as tokenistic, and described as a "phantom pay cut".

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald queried why, despite the 10% cut, Mr Martin's salary is still some €1,500 higher than his predecessor at €186,831.

Mr Martin said, under the terms announced this week, that he was gifting back €25,000 to the state annually. This includes a scheduled 2% pay rise in the autumn, which will now not go ahead.

However, Mr Martin confirmed that, despite the reductions, the cuts would not impact on the pensions of government figures.

Alan Kelly: Simon Coveney's garda car 'bloody ridiculous' 

Labour's Alan Kelly also queried why Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, the former Tánaiste, had been assigned a garda driver. Previously, only the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, justice minister, the President, the Chief Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions, were entitled to a garda car and driver.

This is “bloody well ridiculous,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Martin said it was not decided by Cabinet but there was a “security dimension” to it.

He also stood over the pay arrangements for TDs and politicians being in line with public service salary changes. If politicians got into a competition about who would “bid lower”, it could impact on politics. Wealthier parties could win out, he claimed.

But, as TDs began arguing, Mr Martin also suggested that “American money” was behind the funding of the constituency office of Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty, a claim the Opposition TD vehemently denied.

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