It’s really not a good time for €100k a year TDs to be complaining

TDs salaries have been bumped up just at a time when millions of us face into a harsh winter, writes John Dolan
It’s really not a good time for €100k a year TDs to be complaining

Outgoing Taoiseach Michael Martin will hand over the reins to Leo Varadkar today on a date that has angered some TDs.

IN the coming days, newspapers and broadcasters will start to give their take on 2022, and how it will go down in posterity.

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster ride. We started the year by walking out of the tunnel of a two-year pandemic, blinking in the sunshine, only to be hit by the train crash blow of a full-scale war on European soil.

That has caused a ripple effect of high prices, particularly of fuel, which has cast a cloud over the continent as winter descends.

But it hasn’t been all bad news.

Take our TDs - they were able to celebrate the fact their annual basic salary crossed the €100,000 threshold for the first time since the recession in 2008.

The last time they were earning so much was during the heady days of the Celtic Tiger - ‘we all partied’, as one politician famously put it - and when that party was pooped, politicians sheepishly took big pay cuts to assuage the fury of the suffering public.

Now, after a succession of quiet but decent pay hikes, their salaries have been bumped up just at a time when millions of us are fearing a harsh winter, with many wondering how they will pay their heating bills and cover other soaring price rises.

You would think, then, that our TDs would avoid being ungrateful for their lot at such a trying time for Joe and Josephine public.

Not a bit of it.

A few have thrown their toys out of the pram in spectacular style in recent days over the kinds of ‘problems’ you or I would kill for.

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to hear the melancholy chords of the world’s smallest violin...

First up on the TDs’ crime sheet is the fact that the handover of the Taoisigh was taking place today, when Cork’s Micheál Martin honours the coalition deal and passes the baton to Leo Varadkar.

Quite a big deal for everyone in the country, then - especially if you’re a sitting TD, requiring your presence in the Dáil chamber for this always historic occasion.

However, the fact it is taking place on a Saturday - and not just any Saturday, but one of the busiest of the year in the run up to Christmas - is beyond the pale for some of our TDs, particularly those living, well, beyond the pale.

We learned some opposition TDs are not happy, not happy at all, with their €100,000 a year presence being required.

Independent TD for Roscommon -Galway Denis Naughton tried to tug at our heart-strings by complaining that TDs and Dáil staff were having to reschedule planned visits with their children to see Santa today.

But we’ve all known December 17 is the date for the changeover of Taoisigh since November 9 - had anyone really booked their Santa visits by then? And what do minions on half the pay of a TD do when they are required to work on a Saturday at relatively short notice? They just get on with it and rearrange their schedules.

Mr Naughton said the handover should take place on a weekday, adding: “We’re trying to make the Oireachtas more family-friendly.”

Again, there will be little sympathy for this point of view from the large cohorts of people who work weekends, and juggle their family commitments accordingly.

It’s clearly very unusual for the Dáil to sit at the weekend - and one Saturday in every blue moon is hardly an imposition for TDs, even so close to Christmas.

Besides, our TDs will have lots of time to catch up with Santa and other family commitments, as the Dáil will be in recess from next Saturday until January 18. Nice work if you can get it!

Another TD, Cian O’Callaghan of the Social Democrats, also isn’t happy with this Saturday working lark, and raised the issue of child care on the day.

You feel like telling these people that this is a small taster of the real world millions of people inhabit every day! Anyway, there is a creche in the Dáil - a few years ago, it was noted its rates are far below those charged in other parts of Dublin. Nice.

Oh, and after some confusion and concern, it transpired the Dáil bar will be open today too. Merry Christmas indeed. Does your workplace have a bar?

Tipperary Independent Matte McGrath, another TD unhappy with the idea of being asked to traipse to Dublin on a Saturday, accused Micheál Martin of wanting that date to “massage his ego”. Now, our outgoing Taoiseach can be accused of many things, but he is surely the least egotistical politician on the island!

Undeterred, Mr McGrath added of the Government: “They’re missing the last shopping day before Christmas, disgraceful, they’d nearly cancel Santa Claus to have their egos massaged.”

Honestly, someone needs to take these TDs aside and break the news to them about Santa... everyone knows the big fella only appears on Christmas Eve!

Speaking of which, it’s interesting that Mr McGrath reckons today is “the last shopping day before Christmas” when most of us males know the last shopping day before Christmas is actually December 24, around about 5pm!

And it’s not just the frightful Scrooge-like idea of having to work on a Saturday that’s irking our TDs - many are also unhappy about Environment Minister Eamon Ryan’s recent suggestion that the Leinster House car park be replaced with a garden.

Cue apoplexy from some TDs who aren’t in the habit of cycling into the Dáil like Mr Ryan.

Fianna Fáil Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill complained: “When I come up to Dublin, I would have a lot of documentation, my laptop, my briefcase, and everything else. It would be really inconvenient to have to park somewhere else.”

Independent Limerick TD Richard O’Donoghue was also riled and suggested Dublin TDs should use public transport and leave the driving to the outlying members.

You may drum up a sliver of sympathy for these TDs - until you realise Minister Ryan was proposing enlisting a multi-storey car park two minutes walk away for TDs.

Hardly an imposition then.

Seriously, though, hundreds of thousands of commuters every day have to grapple with the issue of finding a parking place and then paying for it.

As for the TDs, their Dáil car park is free - and presumably they won’t have to be parting with any of that €100,000 a year even if they move to the multi-storey.

As I said, we need the world’s smallest violin for these gripes.

These TDs need to be wary of a public backlash if these issues are anything to get worked up about, at a time when their salaries are nudging up to record levels, and while many of us are cutting back and tightening our belts.

Of course, it’s not all our TDs that are giving out - and many of them relinquish part of their salaries, while People Before Profit TDs only take the average wage.

But the last thing the public needs to hear as the expensive Christmas season nears, are outlandish complaints from people who are trousering multiples of their own wages.

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