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Government's pay hike for super junior ministers branded 'shameful'

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Fianna Fail’s Jack Chambers

Fianna Fail’s Jack Chambers

Fianna Fail’s Jack Chambers

A government decision to change laws to allow pay hikes for ministers of state days before they go on their summer break has been branded "disgusting" and "greedy".

The coalition pushed through the legislative change to allow three ministers of state to get a €16,229 allowance for attending Cabinet meetings.

The move means Fianna Fail TD Jack Chambers, who is the chief whip, and Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton, who is minister of state for roads, will have taxpayer-funded salaries totalling €151,204 a year.

The third so-called super junior minister, Pippa Hackett, who is a failed Green Party general election candidate, will receive €123,186 as a senator.

All three will receive the top-up after their parties voted for the law change, one day after the Government announced cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

Applause

Furious Opposition TDs branded the allowance an insult to frontline workers who have received applause rather than pay increases for their efforts during the Covid-19 health crisis.

Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane said the move was "beyond shameful" and without justification, adding: "Anybody who votes for this cannot look a staff nurse in the eye any more.

"You are pulling a stroke here. You were quick to clap those frontline workers, but this is a slap in their face. The brass neck of that is galling."

Rise TD Paul Murphy said the move came "at a time when one in four people in this country is unemployed at a time of great crisis".

"You look at the actions of this Government - cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, a vote to cut a motion in support of the Debenhams workers and a miserly decision to only extend the eviction ban to August - yet a majority in this Dail will vote through a pay increase for an already very well-paid person," he added.

Mayo Sinn Fein TD Rose Conway-Walsh said it was the most devious thing she had witnessed in politics to date.

There was a "circle of greed" between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens and it was shameful," she said.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath claimed he cannot recall his party preventing the last government from changing legislation to give three ministers of state the top-up.

Blocked

It comes after Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he could not remember the Cabinet signing off on the pay hike legislation, despite being at the meeting only hours earlier.

Mr McGrath tried to dismiss suggestions his party had blocked the same super junior minister top-up until he read an official Fianna Fail press statement that specifically said it would stop any law passing through the Dail allowing for the additional allowance.

Asked about Fianna Fail preventing former super junior minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor from receiving the payment, Mr McGrath said: "It wasn't brought before the Oireachtas the last time."

He also raised questions about the accuracy of media reports that said Fianna Fail was blocking the pay hike by the last government.

However, he was then made aware of a Fianna Fail press release saying the party will "block any effort to fund addition super junior position".

"I don't recall that being discussed and it was never put the before the Oireachtas," he said.