Ahern: Lack of perks justifies Cabinet pay hikes

TDs deserve higher salaries because they don’t have access to yachts or luxury homes like other world leaders, the Taoiseach today told the Dáil.

Bertie Ahern was again forced to defend controversial Government pay rises almost three weeks after they were announced.

The Taoiseach received a €38,000 increase while Cabinet ministers each pocketed a €25,000 top-up from the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector.

Raising the issue during Taoiseach’s Questions, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the Taoiseach topped a salary table of world leaders featuring US president George Bush, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, British prime minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr Kenny joked that the Minister for Environment John Gormley “is only in the job a wet week and has already received an increase of €25,000.”

Defending the pay rises, the Taoiseach said that leaders like French president Mr Sarkozy have less living expenses and enjoy more generous allowances than Irish politicians.

Mr Ahern told TDs: “Not only do most of these people have permanent and weekend residences but they have holiday residences. They have different rules also as they are the beneficiaries of prolonged holidays, yachts and homes. We do not and should not have those regulations.”

He added: “Most of the people mentioned by Mr Kenny would not pay for a cup of tea from one end of the year to the other because they have catering staff in their homes and can use jets for social and other occasions. They are not comparable so we should not do so.”

He added: “It would not be hard for a member of the media to write a glowing article about how poverty-stricken we are compared to other countries.”

Mr Kenny added: “The Taoiseach is telling everybody else to tighten their belts at a time when members of the Cabinet have accepted a pay increases ranging from €25,000 to €38,000.

“Does he think this was realistic in the current circumstances? When I was a member of Cabinet, our first decision was to refuse an increase on that basis.”

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore accused Mr Ahern of “a hard neck” for calling for wage restraints in the wake of his €38,000 pay rise.

He asked: “Does the Taoiseach not have a hard neck to ask the social partners for wage restraint in circumstances in which he is not prepared to exercise it himself?

“Is it not the case that the industrial disputes that are beginning to emerge and which resemble an echo from the past are, to some extent, an indicator of a worsening industrial relations climate to which the Taoiseach has contributed personally?”

Mr Ahern said he did not agree with Mr Gilmore that the number of industrial disputes was increasing.

“More than two million people work every day and nowadays there are only a handful of disputes.”

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