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One Irish MEP earned over €100,000 from shares in Barry's Tea last year. Alamy Stock Photo
odd jobs

Farming, wine and stocks in Ryanair, Barry's Tea and Glanbia - all the side gigs of Irish MEPs

In total, MEPs earned over €8.7 million from over 1,700 second jobs in 2023.

FOUR IRISH MEPS are among the 25% of politicians in the European Parliament who have an ‘income-generating side activity’ while a number of other members hold shares in companies like Ryanair, Glanbia and other private Irish firms.

The European Parliament allows for its members to earn an additional income, so long as it comes from non-dubious means and that it’s listed, in full, in annual declarations of private interests to the institution.

Last year, as well as earning a salary of €120,000 (excluding allowances) for their work in the European Parliament, 176 MEPs earned a total of €8,707,652 from various side gigs.

The second incomes across the Parliament came from activities such as farming, advisory roles, practicing law and stock trading.

Ireland ranked 11th on the largest average sum of side income by country.

Non-aligned Lithuanian MEP Viktor Uspaskich was the highest earner, with his shares in a national real estate conglomerate Edvervita UAB making him €3 million every year.

Transparency International EU have said clearer information should be requested from the MEPs in their yearly declarations, such as giving a precise figure for income.

In total 70% of MEPs, including over half of the Irish delegation, perform or have performed some sort of side activity, whether paid or unpaid, which could have an impact on the performance of their duties.

Transparency International EU said: “Not only does this blur the lines between personal interests and political priorities, but it also invites questions about the true motivations behind MEPs’ actions.”

According to its analysis, MEPs take part in a total of 1,751 side jobs.

Irish farmer on the Agriculture Committee

Transparency International EU have also called for MEPs to be removed from positions, such as committees, in cases of perceived conflicts of interest.

The group highlighted how one MEP, who is a farmer, is a member of the parliament’s agriculture committee. This MEP is Fine Gael’s Colm Markey.

There is no accusation of wrongdoing, the income levels are small, and the declarations were done correctly and in time – but the group used the example to highlight perceived conflicts of interest. 

Markey earned €19,133 in additional income last year from his farming business, Corstown Farms Ltd, in Co Louth.

The politician is a permanent member of the Agriculture Committee and is also the owner of two other agri-businesses – but neither business provided the Midlands-North-West MEP with any additional income last year.

Markey did, however, receive €1,671 in dividends from shares he holds in Glanbia, the Irish dairy conglomerate. 

The MEP, who announced last month that he would not be seeking re-election, also holds shares in Ryanair. Markey did not respond for comment by the time of publication.

Other additional income earners

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher also took in a second income, of €19,200 last year, from his farm.

Kelleher also earned a lump sum of €8,000 from the dividends of his shares in the Kerry Group and is a landlord of a property in Glanmire, Co Cork.

Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune earned the most out of the Irish politicians, raking in €100,000 from dividends in shares she holds in a company connected to Barry’s Tea in Cork.

Clune is also a shareholder in two other companies with connections to the well-known tea brand. She did not earn any income from these two companies, but the firms were listed as private interests which could influence the performance of her duties.

Independent MEP Mick Wallace also listed his advisory role to the Wallace Calcio wine bar and restaurant business. In 2023, he earned €6,150 in additional income from his role.

Holdings in farms and firms

Both Green Party MEPs Grace O’Sullivan and Ciarán Cuffe also had private interests – but none of them earned them any money in 2023.

O’Sullivan informed the institution that she will be “part of a family partnership to keep the administrative management of the family farm within the family” in her latest declaration. 

Cuffe holds shares in Exegyn, a renewable energy company, but did not earn any income from his position in 2023.

Fine Gael’s Maria Walsh also told the institution that she had transferred her share of the family farm, of approximately 50 acres, in June 2022.

She declared that her undertaking of the Teagasc Green Certificate in between 2019 and 2021 could influence the performance of her duties.

She added: “I identify such as a representative working on behalf of young farmers in my constituency. No undue influence however as a young trained farmer, it is important to identify such interest.” 

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here. 

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