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money to burn

Varadkar and Coveney criticised for seeking extra drivers and staff

Labour’s Alan Kelly questioned why the foreign affairs minister is getting a security package at a cost of €200,000.

OPPOSITION PARTY leaders have questioned why Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney need additional staff and resources as the country faces an economic downturn.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was “at a loss” as to why Varadkar needs an Aide-De-Camp – his own personal military aide – as he is no longer taoiseach.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, she asked Taoiseach Micheal Martin to explain why he needs one. “What is the thinking behind that. The Tanaiste is not the taoiseach – why would he require that,” she said.

She added: “I’m very concerned that we have a holy trinity of taoisigh or at least a holy trinity of very senior actors located in the Department of an Taoiseach at considerable cost to the taxpayer.”

Labour leader Alan Kelly criticised Coveney for seeking to retain his State car and garda driver after being demoted from tánaiste.

Coveney was entitled to the security when he was tánaiste, but there is no entitlement to this type of State security when he is a minister.

“Let me say this straight up – it is also a joke that the minister for foreign affairs is going to cost taxpayers €200,000 because he wants a garda car and a garda driver.”

“We are going through an economic crash of the likes we have never seen before,” said Kelly.

Kelly asked why Martin is “tolerating”  such high expenses in Government.

Martin said Coveney is getting a garda car for security reasons due to the nature of his work, while Varadkar is getting an aide-de-camp “to assist him in is duties as tánaiste at occasions and events he will be attending”.

He said 20 junior ministers have been appointed and none of them should have advisers.

“It would be wrong if you’re going to put the taxpayer through that,” he said.

Martin said the new coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is a “tri-partite government” and requires more staff.

He added: “In fact the model for this goes back to the Labour Party back in 1992 to 1994. The Labour Party pioneered this idea of policy people coming in from the political world to ensure the implementation of the programme for government.

“The last government had 19 junior ministers, we have one more. I think there is a need as government is becoming more wide ranging and there are areas that need special attention.”

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