MINISTER for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has defended the decision to increase the salary of a ‘super junior’ minister in Cabinet by more than €16,000.
Two junior ministers are entitled to receive an annual allowance of €16,888 on top of their €124,439 salary.
The current Government has three super junior ministers — minister of state for climate and transport Hildegarde Naughton, Government chief whip Jack Chambers, and minister of state for agriculture Pippa Hackett.
Mr McGrath, a Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South Central, said the Cabinet agreed unanimously last week that the third minister of state in the new Cabinet should also be entitled to such an increase.
“There was an issue of having three ministers of state at the Cabinet table with the same level of responsibility.”
“The legal position is that two of them get extra money but not the three.
“I personally think it is fair that the three will be treated equally and given that the allowance is there for two, I think it should be given to the three.
“That is a view that is shared across Government and by the three party leaders and unanimously approved by Government,” he said.
The decision has been widely criticised by Green Party members, with Cork South Central councillor Lorna Bogue saying that she has been inundated with concerns from her constituents, a lot of whom “are expected to survive on €16,000” as their annual income and “to have that handed to someone who is already on an absolutely astronomical amount of money, it’s just wrong”.
She said: “I’ve got lots of constituents who work in various different healthcare settings around Cork city and they’ve been doing it almost without break now since this crisis started and have been going through the absolute wars at work and of course there’s nothing in the programme for government about giving them a pay increase.”
She said that the Green Party has a long-standing tradition that all these bonuses and “jobs for the boys” would not be accepted by Green Party members which she said seems to have “gone out the window”.
What is “confusing and unclear”, she said, “is who are the two out of the three super junior ministers for whom it was proposed would get the pay increases”.
“It looks as though we have a Government that’s really placid.”
She said that she would rather be seen to have “tried and failed” to get the increase cut across the board and to be “standing up for our constituents and recognising their material conditions, recognising the inequalities that exist in Irish society” than to go along with it.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said that he can “absolutely understand” people’s annoyance and anger but he also defended the controversial decision, saying that it was made in the week in which a €5bn stimulus plan for the economy was announced.
“We were dealing with a specific matter. We have a number of ministers of state around the Cabinet table that were being paid differently and we were looking to get to a point that if they were doing the same work they were paid the same,” he told Newstalk.