Giving It Away



From top: Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald with new Sinn Féin TDS on the plinth at Leinster House last week. Party members take the industrial wage and give the remainder to the party; Anne Marie McNally

Politicians not taking the full TD salary while diverting the rest to their political coffers are misleading the public.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Politics in Ireland – it’s a mess. For myriad reasons but not least the bamboozling political funding process that throws up so many questions with very few straight-forward answers thus leading to another bona-fide reason to mistrust the political system in Ireland.

There’s a widely held view that there is golden pot at the end of the Dáil rainbow and a trough within which snouts are firmly placed.

This view is not helped by elected politicians who try to make a virtue from the fact that they’ll supposedly only claim half their salary. What those politicians aren’t so quick to tell you is that what they mean by that is that they WILL take their full salary but they’ll choose to give half of it to their political party.

It’s the equivalent of you saying that you are refusing to take your thirty or forty grand per year salary because you’ve chosen to give half of it to the local boozer on nights out.

You take the money and you do what you choose with it, that’s really irrelevant to the person paying your wages and in the case of politician’s that’s the tax payer.

The average industrial wage argument is does not and should not apply to political salaries. You are not paying average industrial workers; as citizens you should be expecting highly competent/qualified individuals willing to work 24/7 on the issues affecting the quality of people’s day to day lives. It’s no small thing.

The fact that in far too many instances we don’t get that quality of representation should not be used as a tool to denigrate the nature and the purpose of the role. Like any other profession the salary must be commensurate with the level of work involved and the importance of the role. If it is not then you are less likely to attract the best qualified people towards it.

I would personally argue that the salary is in no way a deciding factor for those of us who believe public service is a vocation rather than a career but the point remains that appropriate remuneration for what should be, if done correctly, an extremely tough job.

What level that ‘appropriate remuneration’ should be set at is an entirely different conversation but in the meantime it is important that citizens are not misled by politicians who give soundbites about not taking the full salary whilst taking the full salary and diverting some of it to a cause of their choice – in most cases their political party coffers.

Even less clear to the public is the way in which Electoral Acts funding works or even what it is and who is or isn’t entitled to it.

Any registered political party that achieves at least 2% of the national vote is entitled to party funding. Every percentage increase above that 2% increases the amount awarded.

Independents, whether part of a grouping or not, do not receive such funding. Any party that did not meet the 30% Gender quota target but achieved above 2% will have their funding halved – this applies to Renua for example.

Every elected Oireachtas member is entitled to ‘Leaders Allowance’ – Independent TDs are paid it directly while it is paid to Party Leaders in respect of every TD elected for that party, again the amounts differ depending on how many TDs the party has or whether or not it is in Government.

If a TD leaves their party between elections, the party continues to receive funding for them but the TD in question gets nothing – this clause can be more powerful than any Whip in keeping backbenchers silent when they disagree with party policy.

Expenses, allowances and all the rest is a conversation for another day but my point here is that citizens shouldn’t be misled by politicians who try to use the confusing nature of the Irish political funding model to convince them that they are only taking the ‘average industrial wage.’

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

86 thoughts on “Giving It Away

  1. Jake38

    I’m confused. This is a thoughtful and cogent analysis of a non-sensational political subject on BS without the usual cosy right-on trendy left wing bias. What’s going on? Has there been a coup?

  2. bisted

    …it must be a relief to Anne Marie that she doesn’t have to ‘ work 24/7 ‘ to justify her TD salary and expenses…she can return to her position on the ditch and wait for the next bandwagon to pass.

      1. Willie Banjo

        So, the Sock Dems (Labour Nua) answer to their lack of political funding is for their TDs to take their full salary. Surely, if their TDs were so selfless, they would sacrifice some wages for the cause. To be fair to the Shinners (well someone has to), they always said that the reason their TDs took the industrial wage was to ensure an affinity with those they represent. Actually, that’s probably the same reason the Sock Dems take the full amount.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          “they always said that the reason their TDs took the industrial wage was to ensure an affinity with those they represent.”

          To be fair to the Shinners, their spin is clearly working, if you believe that nonsense. gerry Adams is NOT on the average industrial wage. He could not afford to live as he does if he was.

          1. Willie Banjo

            “He could not afford to live as he does….” How does he live? Post me a picture of a mansion, yacht or merc with him grinning atop it …

          2. Rob_G

            Having eye in a private clinic in the US probably took a fair chunk out of his average industrial wage, I’ll bet.

            He must be some man for budgeting if he can pay for his houses in Clontarf, Donegal, Belfast, and Spain, all on the industrial wage.

          3. DubLoony

            Willie Banjo – He has holiday home in Donegal, place in Belfast plus place in Dundalk. Tricky running that on €35K.

            If they are only taking that, why are they claiming expenses too.
            Plus local raffles, lottos & fundraisers.
            Would love to know how they are spending their funds – they have a massive war chest available to their organisation.

  3. bob

    Very interesting. I noticed your constituency mate Gino making the same claim recently. I’ve often wondered about Gerry’s industrial wage and what else he gets covered (by allowances/expenses/the party)

    I’d love to know a bit more about the Leader’s Allowance and how that gets divvied up…

      1. J

        @ Clampers .Don’t forget about the dodgy back which could ONLY be fixed by UNCLE SAM.
        A final curtain call for the Oliver “Twist” musical for politicians. Thanks Annemarie:)

    1. bob

      In case you’re interested, I know this is out of date, but guess who was investigating this.

      Fair play yet again!

      Unbelievable numbers. If I’m reading it right, at the start of the last Dail, FF with 19 TDs was receiving over €121K per TD, SF €119K… and that’s before state-funded staff are taken into account (no idea how many that would be)

      These figures are independent of the actual salaries the TDs are getting btw…

  4. Declan

    That was really great. Seriously more of this.

    Does anyone know what the “average industrial wage” is. Depending on who I talk to it’s between 26k and 44k. Not too bad a wage really

      1. Lorcan Nagle

        And remember that’s an average, not a median. So it’s not accurately descriptive of what most people get.

  5. Clampers Outside!

    I hear ya Anne Marie.

    But, not even in your ‘for another day’ bit do you mention TD/Senator pensions.

    Will the SocDems be campaigning to raise the TD pensionable age to that of the rest of the country. After all, it was given to all TDs only a while back by the most crooked of all politicians, Charlie Haughey, and it goes without saying that he was very much in favour of exuberant pay outs to politicians. And the pension age, and the amounts given, are one of the most offensive TD pay outs there is. And it MUST stop.

    I give this as an example, because it is one of the most despicable and offensive ‘golden’ send offs / pensions. Plse note, nothing against Ivan, only his pension….

    Worked 16 years as a TD.
    Retired by 50.
    Full pension for life.
    €70,000+ pa.
    Will have received 16 years of pension payouts BEFORE reaching state pensionable age.
    That’s €1.1m before reaching pensionable age.
    So, by the time he reaches pensionable age, he will have been receiving a full pension equivalent to twice the industrial wage for AS LONG AS HE WAS WORKING……. so if he gave 100% of his wages every year he worked to his pension…. he still wouldn’t have contributed enough to pay for the amount received by the time he reaches retirement age…. WHAT THE FU** IS GOING ON? This must stop. There is no question that it has to stop.

    It’s disgusting. Any TD that does not make a solid, honest effort to stop early pensions is full of it ! Full of lies, spin, double standards and hypocrisy.

    So, where do SocDems stand on early pensions? When will SocDems start making an effort to stop early pensions and their extremely unjust pay outs? When is the TD pensionable age to be brought back up to the state age?

    And thanks for highlighting the spin and bullpoo of SF TDs only taking half their wage. They get full wages, what they do with it is up to them. Your analogy re the local boozer is spot on!

    1. Pip

      Mighty well said, Clampers. It’s all gimme more, sooner, longer, bigger, more deluded.
      (And nice to see ‘myriad’ used properly in Anne Marie’s piece too).

      1. Clampers Outside!

        Some of it, apparently. Dan Boyle alluded to it recently, but was vague in his answer. But I have not been able to find a link with clear info. If you have a link, I’d love to read it….

    2. Daniel Sullivan

      TDs and so on, don’t get a pension now when they retire or lose their seat. They get it at the pension age, like the rest of us.

      1. ollie

        Brian Walsh got his pension immediately.
        Each “one term” TD who wasn’t re-elected gets a minimum of €63,000 and €11,000 pension at 66.

        And Enda Kenny will collect a full teacher’s pension for 4 years in the teaching job.

    3. Clampers Outside!

      Found my answer… the age has been raised and fixed in line with the state pensionable age

      “Reforms have also been introduced which affect the age at which politicians will receive a pension. Under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, pension entitlements are not payable to ‘new entrant’ Members of the Oireachtas (as defined in the Act) until age 65. Furthermore, the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012, introduced a new Single Public Service Pension Scheme with a new minimum pension age of 66, rising in due course with the age at which the State Pension (Contributory) will become payable. This will apply to all new Members of the Oireachtas, including Ministers, as defined in the Act.”

      A statement from the Oireachtas said: “Pension payments are payable to former Members subject to certain terms and conditions. All new members of the Oireachtas from January 2013 pay 13% of their gross salary towards their pension. Members elected prior to that date pay 6%.

      “In addition, members are paid a salary in line with public service pay and so they must also pay the pension levy. It should also be noted that they cannot benefit from the public sector pension for their service as a member of the Oireachtas. Finally, there are no special tax arrangements in relation to members pensions – normal tax arrangements apply.”

      Good link this…

      Well… that’s the pensions bit sorted :)

      1. Anomanomanom

        The loop hole in it is, If a td retires due to medical reasons and can “prove” they would have been relected they can “ask” to have the pension oh and it’s doubled.

        1. Clampers Outside!


          This is why I need Anne to get onto that, clarify the loop holes and will the SocDems make an effort to close them. It’s a ridiculous notion to pay out like that for being incapacitated to run for elected office, no matter what the reason. It’s not “fair and just”.

        2. bob

          Not quite doubled… it’s assumed that you would have been elected and an extra 5 years service added. Still a disgrace

    4. ollie

      Clampers, Yates is 56. He already has his pension as you have pointed out.
      Now , a mere mortal who’s also 56 will pick up a pension in 2028 when he is 68.
      So Yates is actually getting 18 years worth of pension.
      If I wanted to get a €70k pension after 21 years in a job I would have to pay €35,000 a year into my pension pot. Yeats paid nothing. So, he gets €70k a year in pension from age 50 to say 75, that’s €1.7 million.
      He also hasn’t had to pay €35k year into his pension fund for the 21 years he was a TD, that’s €735,000.
      So, Mr Yeats has gotten €2.4 million from the taxpayer as a “reward” for being a TD.
      And unlike you I have a problem with Yeats, preaching to the masses while ripping us off.

      1. Clampers Outside!

        I was trying to play the ball, not the man, hence not having a go at Yeats himself… that’s for another day.

        Anyway, as the staff in Broadsheet Towers say… fixed now. No more early pensions. But yeah… any waffle out of Yeats on his radio show or any other commentary anywhere from him on how society is being in any way “unjust” should be laughed out of the room for the sheer blatant hypocritical position he’d be speaking from.

        1. Harry Molloy

          At least Yates is honest about it. Always said that he made his decision to retire as his pension wouldn’t have gotten any bigger from there on in

    5. Harry Molloy

      don’t know if many will answer as it’s probably the reason most go in. if I ran it would be for the pension rather than the 70k which you could get to in most industries by working hard for a few years

    6. ahjayzis

      They should also be switching to defined contribution pensions for the people who’ve built a country where as a private sector worker like most of us are, it is impossible to get a defined benefit pension.

      If they’ve designed the country in such a way that we’re reliant on gambling on the stock exchange for a viable retirement income, why do we then have to pay a guaranteed for life, no-risk pension to them in return?

      1. Anomanomanom

        It’s simple they have these pensions because who’s going to stop it. I work in the public sector and i have to say my pay is not bad, my pension is absolute garbage. Counting my contributions and the pension levy(which doesn’t go towards my pension) iv worked out, after 40 years services(full pension) il be 62, yet just to get back what il paid (assuming nothing changes) I’d have to live to be 93. Yet a Td gets massive amounts for a third of the service.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      Leaflets that no one I have asked in Dublin 8 has ever received… I even asked at a community meeting in a room of 60 odd people a few years back…. none of them received any fliers. All live in his constituency.

      1. DubLoony

        I concur – am in DubSC as well. No fliers received. Perhaps they too were donated to the cause.

  6. edalicious

    “It’s the equivalent of you saying that you are refusing to take your thirty or forty grand per year salary because you’ve chosen to give half of it to the local boozer on nights out.”

    I’m stealing this line

    1. Barry the Hatchet

      You know what, it’s not the equivalent of that at all. The people who voted for Ruth Coppinger or Gino Kenny or whoever no doubt believe that the political work their respective parties do is important and valuable – that’s why they voted for them. Donating half your salary to a cause which you and your constituents believe is worthy is not at all the same as pissing away half your salary in the local pub.

      I accept that there is something a bit disingenuous about TDs saying “we only take the average industrial wage” without making it clear that they in fact donate the rest to their party. And Anne Marie suggests that there should be more transparency around electoral funding, which is a point I very much agree with.

      But, at the same time there is something to be said for TDs being able to properly relate to the financial struggles of their constituents. It’s pretty difficult for someone on €87k a year to imagine how hard it is for the 33% of households who have to get by on a gross income of less than €30k. The difference between those two figures is astronomical, in terms of the impact it has on quality of life. So am I going to criticise people like Ruth Coppinger or Gino Kenny or whoever for choosing to live on the average industrial wage? Like fupp I am.

  7. Andy McGowan

    Ms McNally sounds like a politician suffering from sour grapes that another political party has better policies than hers and are not career politicians who are looking for a gravy train.

    We’ll see if it is the SDs or SF who are still around in five years time.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      Em… putting half your wages into a safety pot to ensure your party and it’s desires survives also goes a long way to ensuring the individual TD has the support to keep them and the party going. It is not something altruistic in any way whatsoever as SF would have the simpletons who swallow such nonsense believe.

      It’s like buffering up the barricades for hardier times, it is still to the benefit of the payee who is effectively buffering up their back up support and ensuring their back up will have the cash to support them…

      It is not in any way a benefit to citizens as SF spin would have one believe.

      1. David Yip

        I wish there was a thumbs up button in the comments. But this sums it up pretty nicely.

    1. Willie Banjo

      You’re slightly lacking the full facts there. Coppinger was only elected mid 2014 so wouldn’t have had a full return.

  8. bob

    Is that because Coppinger was only elected half way through the year? Or does she really not claim her full pay… somehow I doubt it!

  9. Junkface

    Good article, its always good to know whats really going on with Politicians and their spin, especially regarding pay and pensions

  10. postmanpat

    First up. This is off topic but…..How creepy must it be to be the company of these people in the photo? Would you be comfortable with any of them knowing where you live?

    1. Nice Jung Man

      What’s your beef with Kathleen Funchion?

      These people are non-entities mostly and will all disappear next time the spin cycle goes round

      1. Zarathustra

        I think it’s more to do with being able to tell the type of person one is by the company they keep.

  11. Man from 1987

    Where are the Progressive Democrats gone and how on earth did Sinn Fein win 23 seats in the Dail?

    And what’s with the yellow buses?

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      I am equally bemused by all three.
      One theory I have for those hideous yellow buses is that the Swedish colours were cheaper at the point of manufacture. Anyone?

  12. Jonah

    The column completely misses the point.

    Taking the average industrial wage or the ‘worker’s wage’ has been a principle among socialist political parties in Ireland and Britain for decades. It’s not an invention of Sinn Féin or the AAA-PBP.

    The core of the argument is that elected representatives need to be able to properly relate to the people whom they represent. Someone earning 90,000 plus expenses, nice pension and glorying in subsidised meals and booze in Leinster House will (even with the best intentions) struggle to understand the reality of life for someone on 30,000, no pension and scrimping to keep a roof over their heads.

    And if they do not understand the people the people who voted for them, how can they represent them effectively, how can they ensure they are not co-opted by the political and media establishment.

    Whether those politicians who choose to do this are right or wrong is something for voters to decide and, judging by the performance of Anne-Marie and her colleagues, seems to be a lot more attractive than candidates who confused retweets with pledges of votes and soft media coverage with genuine support.

    Anne-Marie is perfectly entitled to criticse the fact that the money is not given back to the taxpayer but is used to provide constituency services and support the party or campaigns the TD chooses to back. I don’t agree with her, but it’s a valid and coherent argument.

    But to write an entire column attacking the concept of elected representatives taking the average industrial wage without even understanding why they do so is an extremely weak analysis.

  13. Wayne Carr

    “If it is not then you are less likely to attract the best qualified people towards it.”

    Would you ever get off it. Are Irish people electing politicians based purely upon the individual skill sets they have? Sean Haughey, Michael Healy Rae, Michael Lowry, Enda Kenny, Gerry Adams?

    It’s such an infuriating argument to put forward. Considering the “best qualified” people destroyed our economic sovereignty, and are being paid mightily for it in massive pensions (both public officials (Ahern) and private businessmen (Sheehy)). The fact that Sinn Féin TDs take home less money is certainly nothing something to criticise them over, I would have thought. Even if they get more than the average industrial wage, they are taking home less than parties/independents from other parties. Whatever about criticising the party, you certainly can’t criticise individual TDs over it.

  14. Mark Ryan

    Don’t see where Sinn Fein is mentioned in the article? Surely political discourse is good.

  15. Gerard Wyer

    IMHO you have completely missed the point, Anne Marie.
    SF TD’s only receive the average industrial wage to make it clear to everyone, including themselves, that they are not in it for the money. This demonstrates a commitment to public service that is sadly lacking in Irish politics.
    It is their intention to lower TD’s salaries when they become the governing party in Ireland. Selflessly giving the portion of salary above the average industrial wage to the party simply hastens that day.

  16. steve white

    “It’s the equivalent of you saying that you are refusing to take your thirty or forty grand per year salary because you’ve chosen to give half of it to the local boozer on nights out.”

    this isn’t denigration?

  17. Kieran NYC

    The Shinnerbots are pretty slow off the mark today. Ye must be the new recruits?

    Tell Gerry to pay you more! Clearly HQ has enough cash…

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