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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 12 Oct 1994

Vol. 445 No. 7

Private Members' Business. - Ministerial Pay Recommendations: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy John Bruton on Tuesday, 11 October 1994:
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to defer implementation of the Review Body special pay award for Ministers so as to set a necessary headline in relation to overcoming the current industrial relations difficulties in State companies, maintaining control of public expenditure and improving the competitiveness of our economy.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:—
"Dáil Éireann—
—acknowledges the independent and expert role performed by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector over the last 25 years in providing advice on remuneration levels to the Government at various times,
—recognises that it has been the policy of various Governments to accept and implement the recommendations of the Review Body and that the Government accepted in principle the recommendations in Report No. 35 of the Review Body when that Report was published in 1992, and
—supports the implementation of the recommendations in respect of all groups dealt with in Report No. 35, without exception, on the deferred phasing basis, extending over 1994 and 1995, decided on by the Government, this approach being in line with arrangements for other similar cases agreed with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the context of the negotiation on the Pay Agreement which forms part of theProgramme for Competitiveness and Work.”
—(Minister for Finance.)

It is regrettable that we are spending the first and second days of the new Dáil session engaging in a debate of this type, but I make no apologies for contributing, nor do I apologise for the stance that I and my party have taken on this matter.

The massive pay hike which was awarded in a most surreptitious manner on the eve of the debate on the Beef Tribunal report was as cynical as it was unjustified. In any business the underlying thread is that of performance and remuneration is linked to performance and productivity. Not so in regard to the business of this Government. Our Constitution, a solemn document which underpins the existence of democracy in this State, expressly states that the Government shall be responsible at all times to Dáil Éireann. This fundamental provision has been flouted consistently by Ministers who regard the Dáil as at worst, a nuisance and at best a rubber stamp for decrees and ordinances of this tarnished flying circus masquerading as a Government.

Frequently important matters of public concern brought to the attention of the Taoiseach are disallowed and questions are transferred or watered down and replied to by way of bland statements lacking in information and dressed up as answers. The mantra of the Government — and I have heard it more from the Minister of State opposite, Deputy Fitzgerald, than from anybody else — appears to be to flaunt empty formulas about ethics, accountability, transparency, openness, and freedom of information while the day to day practice of the House is one that imparts as little information as possible to Deputies on matters of grave public concern. I am not surprised, because the concepts of accountability, openness and freedom of information are alien to Fianna Fáil as they are to any party which has held the reins of power in any State for such uninterrupted period of time as have Fianna Fáil since the foundation of this State.

It is no surprise then that the Taoiseach, Leader of Fianna Fáil, and his Ministers become confused on the matter of the national interest because for Fianna Fáil the national interest is and always has been the party interest, and the Government of this State becomes proprietorial in nature. The European league table or comparison of ministerial salaries and allowances that was read into the record of the House last night by numerous Deputies in the course of this debate is self-explanatory. However, coupled with the elaborate cushion of handlers, and fondlers, advisers and spin doctors and family assistants all paid for by the Exchequer, it is a sad commentary on Irish public life which, in time, will be judged by the people.

Last night the Minister for Finance who has graced the House with his presence again this evening failed miserably in his defence of the indefensible. I ask the Minister who made particular reference last night——

Before the Deputy asks me that, he might answer the question I asked last night.

You are looking for a residence for the Taoiseach. Your snouts are in the trough.

He dealt with the question of a report——


Deputy Flanagan has very limited time. He should be allowed to utilise it without interruption.

It obviously suits the Minister and his partners in Government to ensure that the debate is as limited as possible. The Minister, in defence of the indefensible, referred last night to the Gleeson report, No. 35. If the Minister was quoting from the report, why did he not tell us that the recommended salary for the Taoiseach, high as it was, was £88,000 and not £94,000 as it is now? Why has the Government awarded itself an amount in excess of that proposed in the Gleeson review? Why is the Tánaiste's awarded salary higher than the £75,500 recommended by Gleeson? It is worth bearing in mind that the Gleeson report made no reference to the office of the Tánaiste which is costing the taxpayer in excess of £1.5 million a year on top of the £80,000 that he has now awarded himself. Why has the Government used the Gleeson Commission in an attempt to justify increases even higher than the very generous award proposed by that committee?

In the few minutes available to me and having regard to the fact that at 8.30 this evening the Government will vote down the Fine Gael motion with the might of 31, or 35 or 36 — its majority is so big they sometimes lose sight of the figures themselves — I propose that the Government defer acceptance of this award until such time as the terms of the Programme for a Partnership Government have been substantially implemented. This will allow Ministers an opportunity to justify in some degree the present outrages and unnecessary exercise in pocket-lining. It is no more than that.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. These awards are the recommendation of Gleeson. We did not put that recommendation into operation at the time the report was issued. It must be remembered that a number of other categories is getting awards also and I have not heard anyone say they were not entitled to them.

None of them is queuing up for social welfare.

The Deputy has had his say. I have had experience in four Governments over eight years and we sometimes work 18 hours a day or more. Many would say that Ministers are birds of passage. Members of Cabinet and junior Ministers come and go, and I have seen Ministers fail to get re-elected. The reason was that, given their responsibilities in their various Departments, they were unable to attend to the many pressing local issues in their constituencies.

I would like to know whether the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Bruton, will give back to the Exchequer the increase he will get in his pension. That will be the test. It is easy to be hypocritical, but it will not take the public long to cop on to that.

I recall the Minister for Finance in the 1980-81 period writing to all those in Government at the time asking us to forfeit our ministerial increases. I agreed reluctantly and, if memory serves me right, I included a memorandum to the Minister for Finance to the effect that we would get very little thanks from the electorate. I was proved right in that it was soon forgotten. I do not know of anyone, either inside or outside this House, who has refused a pay increase.

I read today with great interest that RTE has employed a new presenter of "Prime Time". It is alleged that that person will receive a six figure salary. I do not begrude anyone their salary, but we should not be told we are not entitled to our salary. It is all right for those who have the media and the national network at their disposal to do what I call a cheap phone-in. Why, when RTE appeared before the Joint Committee on State-sponsored Bodies, did it refuse to give an account of the salaries paid to many of the personnel in that organisation? I do not begrudge anyone in RTE their salaries, but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

It will be interesting to see how many members of Fine Gael who were in Government down the years will return the increase in their pensions. From speaking to people in Fine Gael, many of them do not agree with this motion, but they must follow their Leader. At one time if you took the shilling, you carried the can and followed the band.

Did the Deputy hear that in Offaly?

I have been a long time in Laoighis-Offaly and took on every challenge in that constituency, which looked after me very well. When the time comes again I will ask the electorate to support me and my party. There is a perception that Members of this House are not entitled to their salaries. I have been in this House for almost 26 years and I know of many good Members across the political divide who failed to be re-elected and were left in poor circumstances.

As I said in another forum, a person with a good job must think twice before standing for election to the Dáil, and that is very sad. The Oireachtas makes legislation and it would be regrettable if people of good calibre declined to put their names forward for election. Many would not put forward their names because of the "stick" they would receive from the public. Over the years even backbench TDs and Senators have received an amount of abuse which would not be tolerated by anyone else.

Many Members of the House work seven days a week, with very little time off. They are at every beck and call. Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas are accessible to the public on all issues. They attend functions relating to housing associations and other issues and do not return home until late at night or the following day. Members' families also carry a great burden.

I should have pointed out earlier that I wish to share my time with Deputy Liam Lawlor.

I am sure that is satisfactory. Agreed.

The new committee system that has been put in place makes an even greater demand on Ministers. I am glad to speak on this motion and I speak from experience. It may not be nice to say this but the reality is that all Ministers are birds of passage. The increases were recommended in the Gleeson report and, if memory serves me correctly, in 1983 the then Minister, John Boland, granted us a substantial increase and my party accepted it.

On the question of the salary of a Deputy, if we were to work the same number of hours worked in any other employment we would receive far higher remuneration. I would not begrudge any of the people on the list I have an increase but in general they work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., can organise a golf outing during the weekend and return on the Monday morning. No Deputy, or Minister in particular, can do this. In Government there is always something happening, particularly at weekends. Even though a Minister may have arrangements made he could be called upon to remain in the Department, sometimes on a Sunday.

He could be selling a passport.

I resent that remark.

If he was one of the Deputy's colleagues he could be bankrupting the country.

When the Deputy's party left office in 1987 we could not even raise confetti money. It was left to my party to put the matter right. The task is now easy because we did all the spade work.

I do not begrudge Ministers any increase and I never have but I would be interested to know if Deputy Bruton will sign on the dotted line and refuse for the good of the country, to accept the increase. I would also be interested to know how many more will do so.

How many forms has the Deputy prepared?

If the largest Opposition party in the House had tabled a motion to rescind the package in total one could understand the points it wishes to make. I was amazed that the leader of the main Opposition party stopped so low last night in criticising and belittling the office of Taoiseach. He used every device he could think of, including foreign travel.

With members of the Fine Gael Party, and other parties I appeared before the Gleeson commission for many long hours and presented an objective analysis of the role and tasks of Dáil Deputies and Ministers. We employed the Irish Productivity Centre to carry out a comprehensive independent analysis. In decrying what has been done Deputy Bruton last night sounded like a hollow political hypocrite. It is ridiculous that his party has taken such an attitude. In the corridors of Leinster House, Deputy Bruton's colleagues——

That language might be considered to be unparliamentary.

The time available to the Deputy is very limited; let him utilise it without interruption.

Just because his time is limited does not give him free licence to say what he likes. I ask him to withdraw that word. There is sufficient precedent——

I do not need any advice from the Deputy.

I repeat that last night Deputy John Bruton sounded like a hollow political hypocrite. The reason I say that is——

Order, the Deputy should apply the word in a general political way rather than attribute it——

I was criticising the hypocritical nature of his speech.

——personally to a Member of the House. It is not in order to attribute it in a personal way to any Member of this House.

Especially when it is not true.

The Chair encountered difficulties with Deputy Bruton last night when he expressed personal criticism.

I dealt with that matter.

He was stopped.

Deputy Bruton's contribution in this House last night contained an element of political hypocrisy. It is acceptable to say this and it is a fair political analysis of what he said last night.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): A Cheann Comhairle, you made me withdraw a similar comment.

I never thought the Deputy was so thin skinned.

Some of Deputy Bruton's colleagues, including Deputy Yates, added to this and therefore I attribute it to the Fine Gael Party.

Then the Deputy withdraws the personal imputation involved?

None was intended.

The authoritative source on the subject.

Is Mr. Dermot Gleeson, senior counsel, who analysed objectively and intelligently this subject and produced what we would all accept was an independent report, not the same gentleman Deputy Bruton and his party entrusted with the task of rescuing the Fine Gael Party and resolving its crisis?

(Carlow-Kilkenny): He is not here to defend himself.

In his speech last night Deputy Bruton also referred to the question of foreign travel. Did anyone foresee the potential of the recent peace initiative to attract attention to this small country on television screens and in newspapers world-wide? The Taoiseach went to Australia to address 16 million Irish-Australians but the petty political nonsense we had to listen to last night is supposed to be the order of the day. The reality is that this is the first time since the hunger strikes, including that of the late Bobby Sands, that Ireland has been mentioned on every television channel and in every newspaper world-wide. Surely this is an opportune time——

To give a pay increase?

——to move with the rising tide. At Question Time today the Leader of the Deputies' party raised the question of its permanence. Are they afraid it might work? Are they jealous that this may happen? It was a cheap political attempt by Deputy Bruton to degrade the role of the politician and particularly the office of Taoiseach — and Tánaiste — to which he aspires.

The Deputy has a hard neck.

I do not think Deputy Bruton would regard it as constructive if I criticised him from the Opposition benches for flying the flag at an opportune time.

On the Taoiseach's visit to the United States, the reality is that he has convinced some leading American industrialists and financiers to become members of a voluntary body which will meet every three months to consider the question of Irish investment strategy in the United States. If these people are prepared to give of their time it is not too much to expect the Head of the Government to attend their meetings. This involves a 36 hour round trip. I know that Deputies Bruton and Owen have travelled extensively but foreign travel is no great pleasure or bed of roses for those who have to travel. After a week or two one has had plenty.

It is more of a sunbed for the Taoiseach.

If the Governments of Australia or New Zealand extend an invitation to our head of Government, should he not accept it? There are 16 million people of Irish extraction in Australia. The Opposition is out of synch and enjoy about 20 per cent support. It enjoys half the popular support we command as a party and will enjoy only that for many a day to come, irrespective of the cheap shots.

The Deputy was very anxious to avoid an election over the weekend.

For all the good reasons we had. I am sorry to disappoint the Deputy.

Such as losing a seat?

Ask my good friend Deputy Austin Currie if he would relish going out and knocking on the doors in Dublin West.

I would love it.

I am sure he would, and he would come back alone.

Order. Let us hear the Deputy in possession without any more interruption. There is a strict time limit to this debate.

There should be a sense limit too.

As the Ballygowan advertisement says, I must be hitting the spot, because they are getting tetchy about any criticism. They are great at dishing it out, but they are not that well able to take it.

Deputy John Bruton's nominees on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges were asked to go to the Gleeson Commission. There is a need for reform and probably no one knows better than a former Minister for Finance the reason the issues have arisen in this way. Previous Administrations decided to forego pay adjustments in the national interest and this impacted on not only Ministers but on chief executives of semi-State companies and senior civil servants. How often has it been said in the course of the debate that people in the semi-State sector are grossly underpaid for the responsibility of managing such large organisations? Mr. Dermot Gleeson addressed all these issues objectively taking cognisance of history. Under a former Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch, Members had to forego a pay increase in the national interest and that was perceived as a cynical exercise rather than a wonderful gesture. People now perceive that an increase awarded independently should be given.

Opposition Members are critical of the level of income and backup for the work of politicians. Great strides were made particularly by Mr. Charles Haughey as Taoiseach who introduced many intelligent reforms and provided a backup to politicians. Negatively criticising a selective recommendation will probably be seen for what it is, a cheap political attempt to criticise the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Members of the Government. Are the Members opposite prepared to have the increase rescinded? Will they forego the increase? If they are sincere why did they not table an amendment to all the recommendations so that nobody would have an increase? Is the Leader of the Opposition trying to placate his party backbenchers by accepting the 3 per cent increase?

But not the 17 per cent increase.

This man whom the Opposition asked to chart the course of the Fine Gael Party has recommended independently and objectively, but now they wish to nit-pick for political reasons. The leader of the largest Opposition party, a man who aspires to be Taoiseach, is undermining the quality of political life by such nit-picking.

We wish you well in the reshuffle.

I have no hesitation in saying that whatever Mr. Dermot Gleeson recommended is equitable and correct. The increase also applies to senior civil servants, chief executives and other key personnel in semi-State organisations. For far too long there has been an apologetic attitude among those who take public office. This criticism is a cheap attempt to demean the office and role of those who hold public office.

A great many people calculate income at an hourly rate. Every politician in this House knows, because we all probably work similar hours, that to combine the work of a Deputy and Taoiseach the Taoiseach puts in 12 to 14 hours a day for six days a week and with the normal annual break, which the Taoiseach is recorded as having this year, it works out at something less than £3 per hour, £2.87 if calculated on a 12 hour working day. That is proof of the petty political nonsense in which the Members opposite are engaged. The Opposition should be objective and table an amendment to cancel the increase for everyone or let the independently awarded increase be given.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Sargent and Crawford.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The task given to the Gleeson review body was to look at the pay levels of a small number of elite public servants, including Members of this House and Government Ministers. The review body has come up with recommendations, the scope of which no other tribunal, with the possible exception of the beef tribunal, has ever recommended. It recommends, with no distinctions, except for a minor one in the case of the leader of the main Opposition party, a salary of £32,700 for a TD; a salary of £95,920 for the Taoiseach, the differential being £63,220, the largest such differential ever recommended in the history of the public service, and I speak with some authority on that subject. The differential before the Gleeson recommendation was £51,525, a rather adequate differential I would have thought. The differential between a TD and a Cabinet Minister is now £43,600, again an enormous and unprecedented differential compared to the pre-Gleeson figure of £33,684 which I submit demonstrated a very healthy regard for one's betters. It is intriguing to reconcile the relative scant regard of the review body for the hod carrier TD with the fulsome provision made for that TD when he becomes a Minister. I recently began to detect an apparently more benign disposition among those working in a high earning legal environment towards political office holders as compared with those in Opposition who peel the potatoes. In this case the review body simply got it wrong. The differentials between TDs and Cabinet Ministers are simply not justifiable and the Government has compounded that error.

The salaries recommended for the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Cabinet Ministers exceed acceptable levels in the eyes of reasonable people and it would have been to the advantage of the Government and of politics if the Cabinet had modified them — which it was perfectly free to do — to bring them more into line with salary levels in keeping with the reality of our significance as a country in the wider realm of things. Instead, the Government sought to introduce this package of outlandish increases, almost by stealth and on the eve of the IRA cease-fire. Our political leaders are losing the run of themselves: trains, yachts and planes are the everyday currency of this Government. Top salaries and top hotels and an entourage of advisers are reminiscent more of feudal times than of a 20th century democracy.

In the Gleeson package the public can buy three TDs for one Taoiseach or two and a half TDs for one Minister. It must be sobering for my colleagues on this side of the House to reflect on this quantum of their worth as they look across at the Government benches. Take, for example, the Minister for Social Welfare, Dr. Woods, who was recently in charge of the country for a day because the rest of the Government was in exile.

The "home alone" Minister.

Minister Woods is the man who cannot tell the difference between £1 million and a £100 million. He is not alone in the Cabinet in having great difficulty in understanding noughts and the bigger the noughts, the greater the difficulty in understanding them. When we get to £8 billion, they are simply incapable of being understood.

The Cabinet become myopic.

Minister Woods doubled his radio figure of £100 million to £200 million in The Irish Times of the following day. He said that was the amount the social welfare amnesty would bring in. According to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General it has brought in less than £1 million and, of course, it was only a figleaf to divert attention from the tax amnesty which gave away hundreds of millions of pounds to tax cheats and other evaders who owed money to the Exchequer. Is a man who cannot tell the difference between £1 million and £100 million worthy of £76,300 before perks? I submit he is not.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, was so preoccupied with Cabinet-making at the end of 1992 that his Government cost the country £400 million because of devaluation. Is he worth £76,300?

Is the Minister for Education, Deputy Niamh Bhreathnach, worth £76,300? She put her first legislation since entering Cabinet through the House today. I suggest this Minister is not worth £76,300.

With these salaries and perks it is no wonder Albert and Dick kissed and made up at Baldonnel. I thought Deputy Bruton's suggestion last night of a theme tune "Leaving on a Jet Plane" was entirely inappropriate for the occasion. I had in mind something from Casablanca. It was stated on the RTE news last night that the Tánaiste was late for the Cabinet meeting because of fog at Farranfore. I do not know if there was any fog at Baldonnel but if there was, it would be ideal for the video for the next election. There is fog at Baldonnel, the Government jet is whirring in the background, Dick meets Albert and they decide to kiss and make up, round up the usual suspects — the media made it all up. A deputation will be sent to meet the RTE Authority, in case they are not sufficiently cowed, because they are criticising us on the Pat Kenny and Gay Byrne shows. They will say, of course, that it never really happened — it was about the system of judicial appointments.

During the recent collective loss of nerve by the Labour Party backbenchers, many of them unconsciously joined in the mantra about how well the Government was doing before the hiccup on judicial appointments. Deputy Shorthall stated: "The economy is booming, all the indicators are right". Literally thousands of Deputy Shorthall's constituents in Finglas and Ballymun must be very surprised to hear about this booming economy. Approximately 315,000 unemployed and those on make work schemes around the country must be very surprised to hear that Labour now regards them also as being invisible. They know Fianna Fáil regards them as being invisible but it will plunge them into deeper despair that Labour also regards them as being the casualties of a booming economy.

The Taoiseach today during Question Time introduced a farcical note when he said he could not understand what all the fuss was about for £3 per hour. I realise figures are not the Taoiseach's strong suit but no matter how many times one divides three into 95,920 one cannot get £3 per hour or one will certainly get more hours than there are in the week. I understand the origin of this figure is the general secretary of Fianna Fáil who told Pat Kenny that all the fuss was about the Taoiseach getting £3 per hour.

He was probably working on Australian time and GMT at the same time.

What about double time and the time sheets? Treble time for Sunday.

The international date line is crossed so often I can understand the confusion.

He does not know whether he is coming or going.

The Taoiseach showed the same casual grasp of figures before the beef tribunal and again during the £8 billion debate. It seems we have a Taoiseach who cannot count and a Tánaiste who does not count. Are these men worth the salaries suggested for them which Deputy Lawlor is heroically and loyally defending? There has to be a reasonable measure fixed. Six thousand clerical assistants in the public service enjoy per annum less than half of the increase to the Taoiseach. A long term unemployed man with two children receives only £124 per week. A person in retirement with a dependent spouse receives £116.20 per week. There is no regard either for workers who are paying their just taxes and creating wealth in the economy and whose total average industrial earnings are approximately equivalent to the amount the Taoiseach will receive by way of increase.

I accept the jobs of Taoiseach and Tánaiste cannot be compared with those of the average industrial worker. It is fair to say they cannot be compared with somebody who is unemployed. It is proper that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste be paid a salary commensurate with their office. There are limits, however, and any Taoiseach or Cabinet Minister who cannot recognise these limits against the wider background I have described is scarcely suitable for a leadership position in a democratic society. Any prudent Taoiseach or Tánaiste who would press ahead with the implementation of these enormous increases at a time of such parsimony in pay increases generally in the public service, not to mention the awful endemic concentrations of poverty, is guilty at a minimum of bad judgement.

The only defence offered by the Minister for Finance for this appalling lapse of sensitivity on the part of the Government was that the report from an independent body would have to be implemented. How many reports from independent bodies are groaning on the shelves of different Government Departments——

Gathering dust.

——around this House and in offices of the public service throughout the city? How many recommendations of the Commission on Social Welfare have been implemented? How many of the recommendations of the Commission on Taxation have been implemented? How many more reports are there from independent bodies, yet the Minister could not find it in himself to modify or gradually phase in these increases over a period?

Government Ministers and politicians generally should be paid adequately but comparisons with top salaries in the private sector are valid only up to a point. There may be an argument in the marketplace for paying top chief executives in semi-State companies, for example, commensurate with their private sector colleagues, but political leaders must have some sensitivity to their constituency and to the plight of people generally and this Government has become so carried away with its own bloated self image that it has proceeded to sneak these increases in on the eve of the ceasefire in the hope that people will not note it. It is a shame on the Labour Ministers that they ratified this, it is something that will come back to haunt them. Ordinary people are not fools.

On behalf of the Green Party I support the Fine Gael motion which is straightforward. I note what the Minister for Finance said when he desperately tried to defend his position by stating it is inconsistent to talk about the Taoiseach and Tánaiste and not to mention Deputies who received a fairly small salary increase by comparison. It is also important to bear in mind the salary increases given to senior management in semi-State bodies, the lack of accountability and the problems in some of the companies.

As a single person, my salary increase does not cause me any great feeling of guilt given that most of it is taken back by the Minister for Finance in taxation. However, that is not the main thrust of people's venom although the media report of politicians getting huge increases has not helped. It is the top dogs or the élite in Government who are getting the lion's share. When reporting such matters it is important to be accurate and focus attention on the correct areas. I have been told in my constituency that I am getting a pay rise equivalent to an industrial wage. Such remarks reflect the generalisations made in the media. That needs to be addressed.

The Minister is codding himself if he thinks the ceasefire will provide sufficient smoke to hide behind. People's memories are not that short although we are often told in politics that they are. The rise given to senior politicians and senior management in the semi-State sector will be a thorn in the side of the Government parties.

The Minister was quick to give an increase to top politicians and senior semi-State management but is in no hurry to pay money owing to Kerbside which continues to employ people by borrowing from the private sector. Money was sanctioned by the Government for this company to help it provide a socially useful service but the Minister is holding on to it. I cannot understand how he is so quick to implement parts of the Gleeson report and so hesitant to pay people who earn between £50 and £160 a week and who provide a service which saves him and his Cabinet colleagues facing increased unemployment and environmental degradation. He is aware of the difficulties of waste disposal. All those irreconcilable facts should impinge on the Government and cause it to reflect. I am not too worried if the Minister takes back the 3 per cent pay rise he gave me, it hardly pays for the newspapers I buy. It is not a great deal and if he does take it back I am sure he will find a useful cause on which to spend it.

We spend much time in the House talking about TEAM — there is hope for it now although there is still cause for concern — yet we do not spend too much time questioning salary increases for semi-State management. A number of small companies have gone to the wall as a result of the management strategy adopted in An Post during the postal strike in May 1992. I received a letter today from a company who will close by the end of the year as it has not recovered from the impact of a management decision to withold pay from staff in the spring of 1992. The staff were forced to obtain a court order to get their rightful pay. Lack of accountability in the semi-State sector is being rewarded. The Government should not only take note of that but should be aware that people are beginning to realise there is a golden circle and that those within it reward themselves and cod themselves we are on the road to economic recovery. That is true for a few people. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There is an element of dallamullóg involved. I hope the Labour Party has some effect on the Minister for Finance and his insensitivity in granting huge pay increases while people continue to scrape through on very little. If it does, it will restore some of the credibility it lost as a result of the infighting between the parties. It should be in Government to represent those who are less well of and find it difficult to survive in the free trade type of economy which has developed. Unfortunately, Labour is seen to bolster up and protect those who are quite happy to reward themselves. They try to justify the unjustifiable and it is pathetic to hear some of the arguments put forward.

Fianna Fáil often talks about its natural coalition partner, the Labour Party and I wonder if Labour has become like the top dogs in Fianna Fáil or if Fianna Fáil has codded itself into thinking it has become a socialist party. This action gives the lie to that.

I am angry that the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and other Ministers saw fit to accept increases in recent weeks. It was extraordinary that the announcement was made on the day the Dáil resumed to discuss the report of the Beef Tribunal. It was also the day we received news of the ceasefire. I hope the ceasefire works for all our sakes but that does not justify the Taoiseach giving himself an increase of £13,900 or 17 per cent when an ordinary person is expected to accept a 2 per cent increase. The Taoiseach will receive a salary of £95,000-plus, three times the salary of a TD. Lumping all politicians in the same basket has brought politics into disrepute. The majority of people do not read the small print and, therefore, believe all politicians have received an increase of 17 per cent. As a single person, I have received a very small increase, while some allowances which were not taxable have been cut.

The Taoiseach is now the second highest paid prime minister in Europe while the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, the man who was going to bring honesty into politics, is paid more than the British Prime Minister, John Major. The Taoiseach has received an increase of £267 per week. We have been told that he is paid £2.90 per hour while the Tánaiste is paid £2.30 per hour. Deputy Lawlor must have got his figures mixed up with the increase in the old age pensions for a man and his wife — a widower only received an increase of £1.80 per week.

These increases were announced at a time when the Government was supposed to be negotiating with TEAM Aer Lingus — the dirty work was done by clerical staff and others who thankfully were prepared to do it. I thank them for this work and I am glad TEAM Aer Lingus and Irish Steel are still viable to some extent. What will happen to the ESB and Telecom Éireann? Will those companies be told they will have to bite the bullet while the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers go free, so to speak?

The British Prime Minister receives £1,377 per million people he represents while the Taoiseach receives £27,400 per million people he represents. It is hardly surprising that we find it difficult to get support at EU summits for the £8 billion package which was supposed to be in the bag at the time this great Government was formed. That money was used to cement the partnership — everybody wanted to get in on the act so that they could be involved in the handouts. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance must find it difficult to tell the people of Dublin that they will not receive all the goodies originally proposed.

I appreciate the Deputy's concern.

I have to tell the people of Monaghan that while a road and railway line have been designated for the east coast the improvement plans for the N2 under this package have been dropped. Rural areas are again being ignored. Yet the Government can find the money for these pay increases.

I assume the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance decided that if the lawyers involved in the beef tribunal could be paid millions of pounds then they should get an increase in their salaries: if their good friends got £2.74 million they were entitled to an increase. People living in rural areas in County Cavan who have to pay £800 each to have the roads repaired — this is properly the responsibility of the Government — are not very happy about the increase in the Taoiseach's salary.

Law clerks, some of whom did a lot of the work for the solicitors and barristers involved in the beef tribunal, are not too happy about these increases. I received a letter from a law clerk which stated:

We have received recently the wage proposals from the Law Clerks Joint Labour Committee. My position is that not only will there be a slight increase in my gross wage but there will be a decrease in my net income, and this in spite of an increase in the cost of living.

This young lady is paid a gross salary of £170.28 per week and after PAYE, £12.36, and PRSI, £9.37, are deducted she has a take home pay of £148.55. She has received an increase of £3.50 per week, giving her a gross salary of £173.78 per week. After PAYE, £13.28, and PRSI, £13, are deducted she will have a take home pay of £146.94, a reduction of £1.50. How can we tell people whose take home pay will be reduced by £1.50, a widow or widower who got an increase of £1.80 per week and the majority of people who will get an increase of 2 per cent that the increase of £267 per week in the Taoiseach's salary is fair?

There was an outburst by some Government backbenchers. They are in a difficult position — none of them want an election, especially after the polls in last Sunday's newspapers. They referred to the state of the economy in 1987——


In the run up to the 1987 election they said that if they were elected they would look after the sick and the poor. The budget they implemented, with the support of Fine Gael, was essentially a Fine Gael budget. They withdrew from Government two years later because they wanted to continue their political patronage.


I call Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Eoin Ryan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Rabbitte said that the fog was lifting. It should not go unnoticed that Deputy Rabbitte shared his time with Deputies from the Green Party and Fine Gael. I remember not so long ago when his party was not acceptable as a partner in Government. Does Deputy Rabbitte remember the time his party was not included in the negotiations on the formation of a Government? What ethnic cleansing has taken place in Democratic Left in the interim which now makes it so acceptable?

Is Deputy O'Keeffe trying to do Deputy Martin out of a job?

I am doing my own thing.

This is another interview for the Minister of State's job; we had an interview by Deputy Lawlor earlier.

Deputy Owen will be waiting for some time for the post of Minister of State. Given the motion before the House, the time when the Deputy will get a post as Minister of State is not high.

Obviously, the Deputy has not yet knocked on the doors in Cork.

The two Fine Gael Deputies do not have ministerial pensions.

That is correct——

Not yet.

——and they have cause for concern.

They will not be in a position to receive ministerial pensions for a long time to come.

The Deputy in possession without interruption, please.

If it was Deputy Bruton who received £20,000 tax free I would say something. I understand the Deputies' problems——

It was the Longford slasher who did Deputy Davern out of a ministerial pension.

The dog food king.

Deputy O'Keeffe is in danger of becoming like Senator Dick Roche. I do not like to say that as I have the greatest of respect for Deputy O'Keeffe.

Given that Senator Roche is no longer a Member of this House, I thought Deputy Rabbitte had taken on that mantle. The Deputy's performance during the beef tribunal seems to attribute that mantle to him.

That is no way for the Deputy to refer to his parliamentary colleague.


The Fine Gael motion is opportunistic, demeaning and derogatory of fellow politicians in this House.

Awfully big words.

There was a time when one could depend on politicians at least not to be opportunistic when it came to others.

When was that?

Fianna Fáil never could be accused of opportunism.


The Deputy in possession without interruption.

That was before the Official IRA, the Workers' Party, came into this House when suddenly everything changed.

I did not think that Dick Roche could sting the Deputy like that.

I am sorry for having stung Deputy Rabbitte since I have just reminded him of his past, where he came from, and about ethnic cleansing. It is no harm to remind him from time to time exactly where he came from and where is now.

This is a very eloquent contribution to the motion.

The Fine Gael Party has now sunk to a new low. Independent people are requested to undertake this review, to take it out of politics and come up with a report, yet when that report is brought to this House it is not acceptable.

The Deputy should read the contents of page 141.

The Deputy in possession without interruption.

It is quite extraordinary that the Fine Gael Party, particularly its Leader, should coin this motion because he is the person who himself will receive £20,000 tax free. I did not hear him say last evening he would not take this increase.


No, he sees this as an opportunity to win a few extra votes in the Cork by-elections.

That is not true.

Cork people will not be duped by that kind of thing.

On a point of order, last evening the Minister for Finance made the same accusations but they were withdrawn.

I am sorry but there remain three minutes only in that slot.

In terms of my sharing?

No, in toto. I must call a Fine Gael speaker at 8.15 p.m.

I cannot do justice——

No, the Deputy cannot do justice.

The Deputy is an honourable man and should withdraw that scurrilous remark.

It is quite ironic that RTE journalists should run this particular issue, individuals who would have a confidentiality clause included in their conditions of service. In other words, we as Members of this House have not an opportunity to ascertain precisely what they receive. That is wrong and must be questioned.

We will have to stop it.

I will leave it at that and allow Deputy Eoin Ryan to make his contribution.

Deputy Eoin Ryan has to do his interview also.

The Opposition has been indulging in an orgy of populist cant and distortion on the matter of the proposed pay increases. In so doing they have denigrated their profession. In the pursuit of cheap headlines they have compounded public cynicism about politics. In the bluster the facts have been obscured. In particular, a set of myths has sprung up about the Taoiseach's pay in comparison with that of other European prime ministers. Once again the Opposition has played fast and loose with the facts. So-called league tables have appeared in newspapers purporting to give the relevant facts. They are inaccurate. I will give the true state of affairs in regard to prime ministers' pay. For example, in Belgium the pay of the prime minister is £88,000 plus an official residence; in Denmark the relevant figure is £87,141 plus an official residence——

What would the Taoiseach want another residence for? He is never here.

In France the figure is £87,500 plus an official residence; in Germany it is £102,000 plus an official residence; in Greece it is £26,867 plus a large, undisclosed personal allowance believed to be a six-figure sum in addition to an official residence.

That is what we should bring in here.

In Ireland the Taoiseach's salary is £95,920 without any allowances or official residence. In Italy the prime minister's salary is £61,000 plus an official residence; in Luxembourg the figure is £92,500 plus an official residence; in Portugal the figure is £45,000 plus an official residence; in Spain it is £56,370 plus an official residence; and in the United Kingdom the Prime Minister's salary is £82,850 plus an official residence and a country house. I might add that in Australia the prime minister's salary is £139,000.

Is anyone from the Labour Party coming in to contribute to this debate?

I know these facts do not suit Fine Gael. Certainly they do not suit the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy John Bruton, who has brought politics to an all-time low.

We know the salary of the Luxembourg prime minister, with a population of 350,000.

It is £92,500 plus an official residence, which even conservatively is worth approximately £1,500 a month.


I know it does not suit the Opposition to listen to these facts. The Leader of the Opposition has brought politics to a new low, ably supported by Deputies Owen and Yates.

I thank Deputy Eoin Ryan for that compliment on our ability on this side of the House.

The Government amendment proposed by the Minister for Finance is quite extraordinary. The Minister expected us to feel sympathetic towards him because he had no choice and had to take on board all of the recommendations of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. I do not know whether I am stupid — I have never been called terribly stupid — but I want the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, to take on board some information. Contained in the Minister's amendment last evening were the words "...the Government accepted in principle "the recommendations in Report No. 35 of the Review Body when that Report was published in 1992,". I have a copy of the relevant pages of that report to hand, dated 30 April 1992. On page 141, paragraph 1.21 of that report states:

We recommend that the remuneration of the Taoiseach, as head of the Government and holder of the highest political office in the land, should be £88,000 a year.

At present the Taoiseach is in receipt of £82,020. Paragraph 1.22 states:

We recommend a rate of remuneration of £70,000 a year for the office of Minister.

Yet in the announcement we see that they were awarded £76,300. Paragraph 1.23 states:

We consider that the Tánaiste should continue to be paid more than other Ministers; we recommend an annual rate of remuneration of £75,500.

The Tánaiste was awarded £82,295. Now I understand what the words "in principle" mean.

A golden principle.

They accepted the main recommendations of the report in principle and then added, in the case of the Taoiseach, an extra £7,920, in the case of the Tánaiste an additional £6,795 and in the case of Ministers an additional £6,300. The crocodile tears of our hero, the Minister for Finance, last evening cut no ice with us. Their interpretation of the words "in principle" means that they accepted the recommendations of that review body and added to them. Not alone does the Minister expect us to accept that the Taoiseach deserves a salary increase of £13,900 but he wants us to give him a Longford-based Chequers. If giving the Taoiseach an official residence would mean that he would spend some time in the country, I suppose the suggestion would contain some merit. The Minister for Finance claims that these Ministers, particularly the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, deserve these excessive increases because of the ceasefire in the North, claiming that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are worth every penny of that increase to which they have been independently deemed to be entitled. It gives a new meaning to the term "peace dividend". An additional £267 a week surely is some peace dividend for the Taoiseach, as is an additional £230 a week extra for the Tánaiste.

He will be the new earl of Longford.

The Minister has rejected our motion and has called it, among other things, a cynical exercise. I note that he passed on those words to some of his back benchers. If the Minister does not want to listen to the Opposition he should take heed of the public discontent and anger at the extravagance of these pay increases and the manner of their announcement.

I wondered whether I had missed something to date in the term of office of this Government, that perhaps when introducing the Programme for Competitiveness and Work they had hinted there would be this type of increase for themselves because they were so competitive. You can bet your life they are competitive; there is more competition between the Taoiseach and Tánaiste than between any public and private sector business. I thought that, perhaps, they had reminded us that there were some who were more worthy of larger increases than others. I shall quote from the speech of the Minister for Finance as reported in the Official Report of 4 March 1994 at column 1698, as follows:

These aspirations must be seen in the context of 3.5 of the programme which states that the pursuit of economic stability on which increased employment is dependent, requires "significantly greater restraint on public expenditure than has existed for the past three years, particularly in relation to current expenditure".

If these increases to the Minister for Finance, his fellow Ministers and the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are not current expenditure, I do not know what they are. I would remind him to read what he told us here on 4 March 1994 were the benchmarks of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. He told us there had to be constraint in public expenditure and in current expenditure and instead we get these enormous increases. We have heard much to suggest that they are deserved and that they are worth every penny and pound. There are very few pennies in this increase, it is all pounds.

If one calculated how many minutes, hours and days the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have spent here it would beggar description as to how any Minister for Finance could expect any worker in the public or private sector to accept that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste's productivity, particularly in the past four to five weeks, in any way deserved these increases. If anything, they should have announced that because they had been out of the country so often, because they had the benefit of the jet and the helicopter, the foreign travel, all the meals abroad and so on, they would give up some of their income. It is not unusual——

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——


Can I ask Deputy Owen a question?

The Deputy cannot ask Deputy Owen anything, except with the permission of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

The Deputy in possession to continue without interruption.

Why did the Labour Party not contribute to this debate.

The Deputy in possession to continue without interruption from any side of the House.

One would think it was only Fianna Fáil Ministers who were getting the increases.

I would remind Deputy Davern that the Fine Gael Party tried yesterday, on the Order of Business, to amend the Dáil order to allow for precisely what he was trying to do now and his party refused to take on board a very good amendment.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

Deputy Owen to continue without interruption.

There are so many things we have to say tonight about this Government.

Deputy Davern knows their snouts are in the trough.


Order, Deputy Davern please.

I have a good voice and I could shout down the Deputy at any forum.

The Deputy should keep going.

I wish to return briefly to a point I made earlier about the Minister saying he had to accept that his hands were tied. God help him, he had to take it all on board. Yesterday, outside this building a group of men who served this country honourably in the United Nations services overseas, complete in the UN blue berets and walking sticks and who are paid minimal pensions, carried placards to tell us what had been done to them by Fianna Fáil. The Gleeson Commission recommended a certain pension for those who had served in the United Nations, the Government of the day changed it and reduced their pension rights. The Government has now decided it has to take on board everything Gleeson said and more besides. I want to know from the Government in reply to this debate — which they will not do tonight but I hope they will do so elsewhere — why it changed the Gleeson recommendation for these fine men who served this country so well and whose productivity was greater per man hours than that of the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste. The Finanna Fáil Party is hurt to the quick following the poll in The Sunday Tribune——


——and by all that was said about the promises they made when the Government was formed. We have programme managers, special advisers, special advisers to special advisers, Cabinet sub-committees, masseurs, minders and fondlers and mobile phones ringing everywhere——

And toilets in Longford.

The report emanating from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting today is that a group of Government politicians is to seek meetings with national media editors and senior management to complain about the critical coverage of the Government. It is awfully sad, I feel like crying.

It is disgraceful.

The Government has already cowed RTE into submission. When the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Higgins, goes out to RTE he will recite a poem or read some prose to them. Those in the press gallery look forward to this meeting. The Government is hurt by the criticism. On the basis of its behaviour in the past few weeks, if the Government had gone to the country, that criticism would be nothing to the criticism they would have met at the doors. If the Government thought it was difficult canvassing in 1981 it was nothing compared with what they would meet this time. The Government has an opportunity to salvage some of the self esteem they lost during the past few weeks but which has been leaking away for the past two years, in fact since the Government was formed because it was shaky from the beginning.

The Deputy is sore that her party did not get into Government.

If the Government wants to salvage some of its self-esteem it should say the Ministers, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste will forego these increases as Ministers in other countries have done when their economies need such sacrifices. How can the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, go on radio stations and say to the media that despite all the wonderful fundamental improvement in growth and so on we should not expect too much in the budget? The widows, the handicapped and the pensioners will have to pay for these increases. The Minister has warned that the money in the coffers and the savings arising out of a reduction in borrowings will not be available to widen tax bands or make life easier for the women whose income is £51 a year over the limit to obtain a third level grant for her son. He cannot take up his place in university because she does not have the necessary fees and maintenance costs. That woman is paying for these increases. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Fitzgerald, has had her head buried deeply in something during this debate.

A romantic novel.

I am not sure what the Minister is reading but it is probably a reminder of——

Probably it is very economic on trust and politics.

——some of what she said in the last election campaign.

It might be a Mills and Boon.

It is certainly a romance. It may well be that the Minister is reminding herself——


——that she and her party must go down to Cork North Central and Cork South Central. She is probably trying to find some plausible lines to try to defend this discredited disgraceful Government.


Fair play to Deputy Mitchell, he will not take the increase.

I must put the question.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 49.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.


  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
CLASS="CP">Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Ferris; Níl, Deputies E. Kenny and Boylan.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.