A questionable pay raise for TD’s : Is our dissent necessary?
All Government workers will receive a 1% pay rise along with other workers in the public sector– pushing TD’s basic salary from around €98,000 to over €100,000.
Over 343,000 public sector workers will be in line for the pay increase, flagged as part of the Public Service Stability Agreement agreed back in June 2017. This means that it’s not TDs alone who’ll be receiving a pay rise.
Among other workers, this increase includes council staff, nurses, and gardaí. Estimates suggest that the rise will cost the State €264 million in 2021. As a comparison, over €3 billion has been spent already on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).
Currently, TDs earn €96,189 a year, while senators earn €68,111. Politicians’ salaries cost the tax-payer €19.4 million in 2018. Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Minister for Education Norma Foley said that the increase – and whether to waive it – is a “matter for TDs themselves”.
Stressing that the rise had been “independently analysed”, she said that it was part of the wider increase across all public services.
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Criticism and content
The question is not only about the necessity but also the morality of the pay raise. Why should politicians – in the middle of a pandemic – receive a pay rise? This move is especially problematic when payments made under the PUP have been cut.
Spokespeople from various political parties have voiced their opinions, including Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó’Broin, who opposes it, arguing that no politicians should receive a pay rise at this time “when people are losing very significant portions of their income” and can’t go to work due to restrictions. “I simply do not accept that politicians should get paid more,” he said.
“The salary that I was receiving when I was first elected as a TD back in 2016 is more than enough to compensate me for the work I’m doing.” Further, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that the move was “tone deaf”. His party has waived the increase for its TDs and senators.
Former minister Nora Owen (FG), meanwhile, said this increase isn’t something TDs have asked for, and is instead linked to public sector pay. She said: “Around 2000-01, there was the introduction of a system where the TDs’ and Senators’ wages would be linked to a Principal Officer’s wage – if a Principal Officer was getting an increase, the Dáil members got an increase.”
Time to Dissent
The number of people receiving the Government’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment has increased by nearly 58,000 over the last two weeks. While the standard measure of monthly unemployment was 5.8% in January 2021, the COVID-19 adjusted measure of unemployment could indicate a rate as high as 25%, if all claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) were classified as unemployed.
With protests in Dublin City last weekend that ultimately escalated to violent clashes with gardaí, it might just be time for the ruling parties to consider the moral standing of a pay raise. They admittedly didn’t initiate it, but have also made no effort to reschedule it to a more fiscally stable period, an option a few TD’s such as Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald willingly chose: “Politicians do not need a pay rise of €8,847 now,” she said. “I have returned mine.”
As the government chooses to make a little comment on the ongoing public protests or the pay rise, their silence speaks volumes.
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