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FactCheck: How much have TDs and ministers been paid since the election?

And are they really “doing nothing”? TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is on the case.

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IT HAS BEEN 60 days since the general election, and we still don’t have a new government.

Frustration is mounting, and voters and commentators are increasingly looking at the cost to taxpayers of the post-election period.

How much are ministers and TDs actually getting paid these days, and are they really doing nothing?

We’ve examined some particularly pointed claims made on Friday night’s Late Late Show, and tried to separate the truth from the lies.

Remember, if you see a dodgy claim somewhere, email factcheck@thejournal.ie.

Claim: Since the election, TDs have been paid €2.2 million, and some ministers have been paid €25,000, to do nothing
Verdict: FALSE. Those amounts are exaggerated, and while our politicians aren’t doing anything close their normal workload, they’re certainly not doing nothing.

What was said:

It’s a claim that has been made in broad terms several times, from several quarters over the last two months, but was crystallised on Friday’s Late Late Show.

Comedian Oliver Callan stated:

By my reckoning, you’ve got ministers sitting there, they’ve got seals of office, and this is a very rough, back-of-the-envelope, very conservative estimate – some of them have earned about €25,000 doing absolutely nothing since the election day.

And chef Richard Corrigan claimed:

€2.2 million of taxpayers’ money has gone to the politicians, doing nothing.

We’re not sure of Corrigan’s source for that claim, but it could well have been an Irish Independent article published on Friday evening, which stated “More than €2.2 million paid to TDs since general election…”

THE FACTS

latelatecallan Oliver Callan, Dearbhail McDonald and Richard Corrigan on the Late Late Show. Source: RTE

Let’s break this into two parts: first, what have TDs and ministers been paid? And second, what have they actually been doing?

And before we start, a quick note. The purpose of this article is just to lay out the facts. It’s entirely up to you to decide whether our politicians deserve the pay they’re getting, for the work they’re doing.

Payments received

TDs

There are 158 TDs in the Dáil, all of whom are paid an annual salary of €87,258 on a monthly basis, on the last Friday of each month.

According to Oireachtas rules, TDs are paid their basic salary “from the date of the election”. Since the election was on 26 February, this means 158 TDs were paid for four days that month, and March.

The Houses of the Oireachtas confirmed to us that deputies were paid once since the election – on 24 March. Their next pay day is this Friday, 29 April.

That’s €7,271.50 for March, and €956.25 for the last four days in February – or €8,227.75 each since election day.

That’s a total of €1,299,984.50 in pre-tax basic salary for the 32nd Dáil, so far.

It is true that some TDs take only the average industrial wage, but the remainder of their salary goes to their parties, rather than being remitted to the exchequer.

Ministers and other office-holders

Apart from the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, ministers and junior ministers are paid €70,282 and €34,381 per year, respectively, on top of their TD salary.

Every fortnight, they are paid the equivalent of their annual salary divided by 26.09, and the Department of Public Expenditure confirmed to us that there have been four pay days since the election.

Their next pay day is Thursday 5 May.

Irish Government cabinet reshuffle Source: Niall Carson/PA

So let’s see how ministerial pay breaks down:

  • On top of his TD salary, Enda Kenny is paid €98,092 per year as Taoiseach. That works out as €15,039 since the election, which combined with his TD salary, is a total of €23,266.77 in pre-tax pay since the election.
  • On top of her TD salary, Joan Burton is paid €84,051 a year as Tánaiste, or €12,886.32 since the election, which combined with her TD salary, is a total of €21,114.07 in pre-tax pay since the election
  • On top of their TD salaries, 11 ministers earn €70,282 a year, or €10,775.31 each since the election, for a pre-tax total of €19,003.07 each
  • Two ministers lost their Dáil seats on 26 February – James Reilly and Alex White – but have been paid ministerial wages of €10,775.31 each since then.
  • On top of their TD salary, seven junior ministers earn €34,381 a year, or €5,271.14 each since the election, for a pre-tax total of €13,498.89 each
  • Eight junior ministers lost their seats at the election – Tom Hayes, Ann Phelan, Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin, Kevin Humphreys, Paudie Coffey, Kathleen Lynch, Jimmy Deenihan and Ged Nash. They have been paid €5,271.14 each since then
  • On top of his TD salary, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó’Fearghaíl earns €70,282 per year. He only took office on 10 March, so he earned €4,123.85 in that capacity since the election, for a pre-tax total of €12,351.60.
  • Former Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett was paid in that capacity up to 9 March, so he got €1,732.98 on top of his TD salary for March, for a pre-tax total of €9,004.48.

Allowances

  • Although a Dáil committee and sub-committee have been established since the election, no members or chairpersons have been paid
  • Although party whips and assistant whips are eligible for additional allowances, none have been paid yet since the election
  • TDs and ministers are eligible for two further payments – the Travel & Accommodation Allowance (TAA) and the Public Representation Allowance (PRA). Those were paid on 31 March, but haven’t been published yet.
  • We know that in February, a month (like March) with just two sitting days, those allowances amounted to €58,823.74. Adjusting for the slightly smaller Dáil, we can estimate that the total cost for March 2016 was €55,988.86.

Let’s add them all up:

  • Basic salary for 158 TDs: €1,299,984.50
  • Salary allowances for Taoiseach, Tánaiste, ministers and junior ministers: €247,071.52
  • Payments to two Cinn Comhairle: €5,856.83
  • Estimated TAA and PRA: €55,988.86
  • TOTAL: €1,608,901.71 from the general election up to today

So Richard Corrigan’s claim on the Late Late Show, that “€2.2 million of taxpayers’ money has gone to the politicians”, is clearly FALSE.

Irish general election Source: Brian Lawless/PA

Oliver Callan’s claim that some ministers “have earned about €25,000″, is closer to the mark.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has earned €23,266.77 in salary. We don’t know what his allowances were for March, but we do know that in February, a month that also had just two Dáil sittings, he was paid €137.93. That would be a total of €23,404.70.

Tánaiste Joan Burton was also paid €137.93 in February, and as her salary since the election was €21,114.07, that would come to an estimated total of €21,252.

So the highest likely total remuneration for any cabinet member is €23,404.70, which is about 6% shy of the €25,000 claimed by Oliver Callan.

We don’t want to be too hard on what was a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation, after all, but Callan also called it a “very conservative estimate”, and applied the claim to “some ministers”, as opposed to only the Taoiseach.

It’s also crucial to bear in mind that all these figures are gross – they don’t take into account tax deducted.

Taking all that into account, Callan’s claim is Mostly FALSE.

Services Rendered

april14votechat Source: Oireachtas.ie

TDs

  • Since the election, the Dáil has sat six times – for a total of 44 hours and 30 minutes, or 7 hours 25 minutes per session.
  • There were three failed attempts to elect a Taoiseach, and the successful election of a Ceann Comhairle (Fianna Fáil’s Seán Ó’Fearghaíl)
  • A committee on housing and homelessness was established, and its 13 members met for 1 hour and 10 minutes last Wednesday.
  • A sub-committee on Dáil reform was also constituted, and its 15 members met on three occasions, and produced a report on 6 April.
  • TDs debated Brexit, the housing crisis, insurance rates, the health service, and political reform.
  • Based on entries on the KildareStreet.com website, we’ve calculated that from 27 February to 25 April, TDs put a total of 3,043 parliamentary questions to ministers
  • No bills have been passed into law.
  • A handful of TDs each from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Independents have been engaged in negotiations over the formation of a new government
  • Many TDs have continued to hold clinics, and meet with interest groups and constituents since the election

To put this in perspective, and get a sense of what the Dáil’s typical workload is, let’s see what they were up to during the same period (27 February to 25 April) last year.

  • TDs sat on 20 occasions – for a total of 152 hours and 10 minutes, or 7 hours 36 minutes per session
  • Dozens of TDs sat at 14 committees, which met on a total of 74 occasions
  • TDs debated a very wide range of issues and legislation, and held regular leaders’ questions
  • TDs put a total of 7,842 parliamentary questions to ministers
  • Nine bills were signed into law.

Ministers

Irish Government cabinet reshuffle Source: Brian Lawless/PA

  • Enda Kenny, Joan Burton, and about 10 other ministers have attended at least 50 public events in an official capacity – including 1916 Rising commemorations, speeches, openings, etc…
  • Enda Kenny, Charlie Flanagan, Alan Kelly, Damien English, and Dara Murphy have represented Ireland abroad at events in the US and Europe
  • Ministers (with considerable help from civil servants, of course) have signed 59 statutory instruments – modifications, expansions and enactments of legislation – since the election
  • Using the KildareStreet.com website, we calculate that ministers have answered a total of 2,600 parliamentary questions (again, with the considerable assistance and oversight of civil servants)
  • A small number of Fine Gael ministers, including the Taoiseach, Simon Harris and Simon Coveney, have been engaged in extensive talks with Fianna Fáil and Independents over the formation of a new government.

Conclusion

emptydail Source: Oireachtas.ie

Clearly, the claims about pay are exaggerated and false. However, if we still don’t have a new government by Friday, that would radically change the state of affairs, as TDs get another €1.3 million deposited into their bank accounts.

It is also clear that TDs and ministers, on the whole, are not “doing nothing.”

They’re not passing bills, or doing much in the way of committee work. Their sitting days have been few and far between (despite the efforts of some TDs to arrange additional sessions).

But TDs (most of them) have still been doing the work of gathering important information and attempting to hold ministers to account through parliamentary questions.

Ministers are still exercising their formal functions at public events, and passing statutory instruments.

And a small number of TDs and ministers have been working to end the deadlock and bring about a new government.

Whether they deserve their pay since the election, or their workload has been acceptable, those are completely separate questions, and entirely for you to decide.

But as of today’s date, the facts are clear – the claim that TDs have been paid €2.2 million, and some ministers have been paid €25,000, to do nothing since the election, is FALSE.

Send your FactCheck requests to factcheck@thejournal.ie

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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