Tánaiste lies to the Dáil?

In September last year the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector said ‘performance-related’ bonuses should be suspended and pay cuts made on basic salary, Government continuously cited their report in relation to pay cuts. The Review Body did not recommend the ‘bonuses’ be included as salary. The Government, in the Budget, agreed. They stated cuts were to be made in the method detailed in the report – i.e. bonuses suspended and salaries cut. See Martin Wall’s report post-Budget report in The Irish Times here for more.

Then the Government, following lobbying, suddenly decided to change how the cuts would be implemented, but only for a small sector of the public service. That sector includes assistant secretaries and deputy secretaries in the the Civil Service, senior personnel in the Army and An Garda, and positions like Ombudsman and Director of Corporate Enforcement. Each would have been taking home somewhere between €130,000 and €200,000 including bonuses. Harry McGee wrote an explanatory article on the topic in early January. Since then the numbers included have expanded. On the latest count almost 600 people fall into the group (the public sector would have tens of thousands of staff, obviously).

Instead of suspending bonuses and cutting basic salaries it was decided that for this elite group alone the bonuses would be counted as part of their salaries. This, the Government said, was because the vast majority of them received ‘performance-related’ bonuses no matter how they performed, thus the bonuses were, in practical terms, part of their salaries.

The eventual outcome; the group did not have their take home pay slashed due to the suspension of bonuses and further cutting of basic salary, as recommended by the Review Body and supported in the Budget by Government. Now bonuses are being are included in their pre-Budget salary totals and this figure is being cut by between 8 and 12. Therfore their basic pay cut is something around 3 or 4 percent. A clerical officer will be cut 5 percent, there are no bonuses, performance-related or otherwise available at these lower grades. Persepective: A clerical officer’s annual salary would have equaled something close to an assistant secretary’s ‘performance-related’ bonus.

The Government’s change is quite clearly a U-turn. It’s quite clearly disgraceful. It’s quite clearly immoral.

Despite just how clear it is, this week the Tanáiste Mary Coughlan claimed “the review body on higher level pay indicated that the bonus was indicatively part of their salary” in the Dáil.

Considering her Fianna Fáil colleague, Martin Mansergh, had already read the facts into the Dail record when putting the Budget legislation through the House:

The Government has accepted the review body’s recommendation that there be no increases in the pay of the higher public service groups, including any adjustments that might otherwise arise under national agreements, before the end of 2012. It has also accepted the recommendation that performance related award schemes in the public service should be suspended.

… and that this view could only be accepted by anyone of sane mind upon reading the report, any logical person would have to conclude that the Tánaiste has either lied to the Dáil and/or is far out of her depth.

Or is not of sane mind.

6 thoughts on “Tánaiste lies to the Dáil?”

  1. Great post – Regardless of a government U turn, which as you detail is clear, Mary is so, so, so far out of her dept. For how long can we have her in such an important portfolio? She is error-prone, useless and woefully inexperienced. But most of all, she seems really, for want of a better word, thick. Nothing seems to get through to her. What does it say about the country when we have her looking after jobs while the economy heads down the swanny. I find myself saying this far too often lately: sure if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry!

  2. @Mark Coughlan
    I have to record a deeply distressing incidence of censorship on the progressive economy blog on tascnet. In the original thread about the Finance Bill the deeply questionable governance of the ESRI was discussed. This thread has now been closed without public explanation.

    With tens of thousands of people emigrating it is extraordinary that the Irish establishment, even those committed to academic freedom, are unable to discuss the ESRI’s governance. Have they learned nothing from the damage their obsessive secrecy has caused?

    1. Nothing to do with us Oliver, we have no involvement in TASC, I’m a fond reader and find it educational and insightful but I’ve never met anyone from that group, though I’m they’re good people.

      I’d say there is a plain explanation, I note they’ve just changed their comment moderation policy, maybe it’s to do with that. I suggest you take it up with them.


  3. @Mark Coughlan
    I knew you had no links to them. I made my comment here because I know you’re champions of transparency and they have linked to you on these issues in the past. The governance of the ESRI is extremely worrying and the place to discuss it is on their blog.

    They gave me a response as to why this thread had been closed which I found completely inadequate. The conclusion says it all. “While PE will continue to debate the issue of governance, and the publications and recommendations of all bodies contributing to the national economic debate, it was decided to close this thread given the content of some of the contributions and, so, move on.”, i.e. you’re making us feel uncomfortable, and, this being Ireland, we’d prefer to avoid the issue rather than to confront it.

    I have now made a comment asking them to raise these issues themselves and moderate the discussion if necessary.

    P.S. I have no issue with the staff of the ESRI as shown by my comments in this recent discussion.

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