What’s the world coming to when you can’t trust a politician to cut their own salary without actually increasing it by accident?
Clarified this evening: voluntary pay cuts taken by the previous Govts lapsed when new Govt was formed, so today's 10% is effectively a renewal of those cuts.
e.g. Taoiseach's salary €207,590; Varadkar had foregone increases, drew down €185,350; Martin will draw down €186,831
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) July 27, 2020
So, for those of you down the back of the class who aren’t good at sums, and weren’t paying attention anyway: Leo Varadkar earned about €185,000 per year as Taoiseach. But this was only because he had voluntarily agreed to cut his pay down in solidarity with the working man. When Mr. Martin became Taoiseach, he automatically got the full amount – without the pay cut.
Yesterday, he announced he was taking a pay cut of ten per cent. But this ten per cent pay cut will still leave him earning more than Mr. Varadkar was earning when he was Taoiseach just a month or two ago.
So, to be clear: Under this “pay cut”, some Fine Gael ministers will actually be earning more than they were earning in March.
Did they think nobody would notice?
The new Government has had an appalling start, from a public relations perspective.
First, they fought like cats and dogs amongst each other over who was going to get the big jobs.
Then, one of their first big legislative acts was to give the junior ministers at cabinet a big pay increase. Then Eamon Ryan was spotted sleeping on the job.
Then yesterday, there was the scandal that they were cutting pandemic payments to anybody who had the temerity to go on a holiday.
Then a senior source told a newspaper that they all needed a holiday because they were so tired and had “nothing left in the tank” – after just a few weeks on the job.
Then we had the news that Eamon Ryan is appointing eight – EIGHT – special advisors to tell him how to not make a mess of things (how’s that going?).
And now they’re taking a pay cut that’s actually a pay increase.
You start to wonder, at this point, whether some of them are on the Sinn Fein payroll, working to bring the whole thing down from the inside.
Governments only have one chance to make a first impression. The first impression these guys are making is not good at all. The things that annoy the public – invariably – are not the massive things like wasting a few billion euros, but the small things, like helping yourself to nicer holidays than the public get, or trousering a few thousand more in pay and expenses. It doesn’t really matter what you do on the pandemic, or on unemployment, or housing, if the public think that you are lining your own pockets at their expense.
This “pay cut”, self-evidently, was a panic announcement to try and repair that emerging image problem. And like most panic announcements, it’s going to end up making things worse, not better.
And just think – the recession hasn’t really hit yet. When it does, there will be a massive political price to be paid.