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The 5 ministers whose special advisers still breach the government's €92k pay cap

The government’s breach of its own pay ceiling for advisers has been controversial in recent years.

FIVE ADVISERS TO government ministers continue to be in breach of the coalition’s own salary cap introduced three years ago.

New figures show that advisers to ministers Brendan Howlin, Joan Burton, Leo Varadkar, Richard Bruton and Simon Coveney continue to earn over the €92,672 cap imposed by the government when it came to office three years ago.

Under guidelines introduced by the Department of Finance in 2011 the cap can be exceeded if a special request is made to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Answers to recent parliamentary questions put down by the Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming show that some advisers who have moved departments in the wake of the cabinet reshuffle have taken their new salaries with them.

However the figures also show that ministers’ special advisers have been affected by the cuts to top end public sector salaries under the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA).

Cabinet Meetings Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Those who continue to breach the cap include Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin whose special adviser Ronan O’Brien is paid €106,880 – down from the €114,000 he was previously earning.

Paypal Jobs Announcements Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton continues to employ special adviser Ciaran Conlon on salary in excess of the cap. He earns €118,840 – down from the €127,000 he earned before the Haddington Road cuts.

Fine Gael Ard Fheis Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney employs Ross MacMathúna on a salary of €103,200, which was requested on the basis that he was earning a “substantially higher salary” in the private sector prior to his appointment.

Fine Gael National Conferences Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Leo Varadkar, the new Health Minister, employs Brian Murphy on a salary of €99,370 – a rate approved three years ago “in view of his previous salary”.

joan burton Source: Screengrab/TheJournal.ie

Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton‘s special advisor Edward Brophy is paid €119,577 – down from the €128,000 he earned prior to Haddington Road.

Fleming said: “The taxpayer is forking out well over half a million euro to pay for these five salaries alone, with the pay bill for all ministerial advisers running into the millions.  This is a bitter pill for many individuals and families, who are struggling to make ends meet on the average industrial wage, to swallow.”

In addition, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s two main advisers, his chief of staff Mark Kennelly and policy chief Andrew McDowell, both earn salaries in excess of the pay cap.

‘A mistake’

The breach of the salary cap caused considerable controversy two years ago when it emerged that several ministers had breached it within months of coming to office by requesting their advisers be paid over the €92,672 limit.

Former Education Minister Ruairí Quinn later admitted the breach was a mistake, saying the government should have “probably set a more realistic level of remuneration”.

In answer to Fleming’s parliamenary questions, new ministers Jan O’Sullivan (Education), Heather Humphreys (Arts), Alex White (Communications), Alan Kelly (Environment), Paschal Donohoe (Transport) all said they had not yet appointed their advisers.

Newly-appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said that he intends to appoint two special advisers – Sarah Kavanagh and Susie O’Connor – but said that neither will breach the salary cap.

Read: Taoiseach breaches pay cap to award former advisor €35k pay rise

Read: Special adviser’s €130,000 salary ‘shows utter hypocrisy of cost-cutting’

Read: Leo Varadkar says €135k salary request didn’t break the rules

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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