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Paschal Donoghue: Us poor ministers can’t afford to take a pay cut, you know

If you’re lucky enough to be well off, please take a moment and think about the poor, and the unfortunate, among us:

Paschal’s salary this year (before any expenses he might legitimately incur as part of his duties as a senior politician) is €175,699.

He is, indeed, poor, if you compare him to his contemporaries, like Ryan Tubridy and Miriam O’Callaghan.

Anyway, there are two points to make here. The first is the obvious one, which is that this is a horrendous political act of self-sabotage by a usually sure-footed Minister. Complaining that you haven’t had a raise when you earn a cool 175k is about as tin-eared a political clanger as it’s possible to make on national radio. It would be bad in normal times, but it’s going to seem even worse in the context of a national crisis where just about everybody in the private sector is absorbing some kind of financial pain.

It’s also going to seem an awful lot worse in a few month’s time, when the same chap might be delivering a budget that cuts, or at minimum, freezes, the pay of our heroic front line nurses and doctors in order to pay for the crisis.

Ironically, he’s probably, by defending his own salary in this manner, guaranteed that he’s going to have to cut it even more than he otherwise might have done, because he’s dropped this clanger. Yesterday, he might have gotten it away with cutting it down to €150,000 annually as part of a heroic, self-sacrificing, “we’re all in this together”, speech, and been praised for it. Not now. He’ll have to half it to be taken seriously, which will make him tremendously popular with his fellow ministers, no doubt.

They’ll all be raging over this, by the way, for exactly this reason. The last thing they need is an extended political debate about whether, at roughly a hundred and eighty grand apiece, they’re worth the cash, because most of them know what the public’s answer to that would be.

The other point though is that the public aren’t innocent here either, in that we like to pretend that our desire to cut the salaries of politicians is some kind of noble money-saving exercise, when the truth is that if we paid them all zero, and put all the cash into “front line services”, basically nobody would notice the difference. It’s a funny thing about how we view public money that the average person gets more annoyed about spending a hundred and eighty thousand to pay a Minister than they do about paying a hundred and eighty million to RTE in the form of a TV licence, for example. Once the numbers start getting bigger than a decent Euromillions win, we lose interest. But the small stuff? We get outraged about that.

Anyway, Paschal can’t be too upset if he does end up having to take a pay cut. He was, you might recall, a bank manager before entering politics. According to these figures, the average bank manager gets paid about €67,000, after their bonus, and the really good ones get €90,000 a year. He could take nearly a 50% pay cut and still be at the top of his chosen profession, outside of politics.



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