herald

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Secret deal allows Sinn Fein TD to pick up entire salary

Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis. Photo: Tom Burke

A Sinn Fein TD struck a secret deal with the party which allows him to draw down his entire Dail salary, the Herald can reveal.

Dublin North West deputy Dessie Ellis told party bosses that he could not afford to accept the average industrial wage as it would push his family "below the poverty line".

Sinn Fein has for years made a virtue out of its representatives drawing lower wages than their political rivals.

But the Herald has discovered that the party secretly allowed one of its most senior TDs to flout the policy and withdraw the entire Dail salary, which rose to €93,598 on January 1.

Mr Ellis confirmed that he had drawn down the entire salary since his election in 2011.

He said the decision was taken because of personal financial matters and that he intended to change his approach to his pay in the future.

"I am working with the party on this matter," Mr Ellis added.

The Herald understands that Mr Ellis told the party in 2011 that he was in financial difficulty due to maintenance issues involving his children.

Up until recently, Sinn Fein TDs and senators were asked to hand back €2,500 to the party each year and accept a take home pay of around €37,000, which is similar to the average in the manufacturing sector.

Pressure

The remaining sum is then used for constituency purposes such as additional premises or staff members.

Sinn Fein launched a review of the policy last year which resulted in TDs being allowed to accept a take home pay of €39,500.

However, the €2,500 annual stipend still applies, as does the obligation to spend the remaining portion of the salary on constituency purposes.

One of the party's former TDs, Cork East's Sandra McLellan, previously complained about being unable to afford basic items such as make-up while living on the reduced pay.

But the revelation that Sinn Fein allowed one of its TDs to flout the policy will place renewed pressure on its de facto leader Mary Lou McDonald.

It will also lead to suggestions that other side deals were struck with TDs.

In an interview last year, Ms McDonald said she was proud of the tradition of her colleagues taking only the average industrial wage.

The Dublin Central TD said the policy kept Sinn Fein "rooted" and "real".

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said it was up to TDs to decide if they adhered to the policy.

"The Sinn Fein average wage is adhered to on an entirely voluntary basis by the party's elected representatives and is a matter for them only," they said.

"Sinn Fein will not discuss the private financial business of any of our elected representatives."

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