The President’s €317,000 Top-Up ‘Allowance’

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From top: President Michael D Higgins Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry; Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy

This morning.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

PAC member Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry raised an allowance of €317,000 that the person holding the office of the President of Ireland is entitled to per year.

The committee was told the figure was set by statutory instrument in 1998, when Mary McAleese was president.

It was also told the €317,000 annual allowance is not audited, not taxed and doesn’t need to be surrendered.

From this morning’s proceedings…

Marc Mac Sharry: “Can I ask the C&AG, are you aware of an amount of €325,000 per year in the president’s establishment – the detail of which is not open for you to audit.”

Seamus McCarthy: “Yeah, I think it’s something less than that. I think the official salary of the president is…”

MacSharry: “No, no, not the salary, I’m not talking about salaries at all. And I don’t want to talk about the president either.”

McCarthy: “No, yeah, I’m aware of the other allowance which is…”

MacSharry: “So what is that?”

McCarthy: “It is…”

MacSharry: “How much…”

McCarthy: “I don’t have the figure off hand. It’s paid through the finance accounts, the Central Fund of the Exchequer.”

MacSharry: “Do you know what amount that is, per year?”

McCarthy: “I don’t, I don’t think so deputy…”

Sean Fleming [chairman]: “What the title?”

MacSharry: “I don’t think it has a title. That’s why I’m trying to get some answers. I asked the C&AG are you aware of an amount of money, in or around €325,000 per year, I’m not talking about salaries here. Which is not open to the C&AG…”

McCarthy: “It’s a payment, I think, for 2017, the figure is €317,000.”

MacSharry: “€317,000.”

McCarthy: “It’s a payment under the Presidential Establishment Act 1938 as amended.”

MacSharry: “Ok. So the Presidential Establishment Act, a payment under that, of €317,000, in terms of 2017…”

McCarthy: “It’s an allowance.”

MacSharry: “That’s an allowance for the president. Sorry, so that, so it’s renumeration then is it?”

McCarthy: “No, well, it’s an allowance. Yeah. It’s not pensionable.”

MacSharry: “Right. It’s not a salary.”

McCarthy: “It’s not a salary, it’s an allowance.”

MacSharry: “It’s an allowance.”

McCarthy: “An allowance.”

MacSharry: “And you don’t audit that?”

McCarthy: “I don’t audit that. I audit the issuing of the payment from the Central Fund.”

MacSharry: “You audit the issuing. So what’s involved in auditing the issuing of…”

McCarthy: “Ensuring that the amount that’s paid over is not in excess of the amount that is provided for in law.”

MacSharry: “And in this act, if we look it up, does it say €317,000 or how’s that amount…”

McCarthy: “A statutory instrument from 1998 set the figure at €317,000 and it hasn’t changed since 1998.”

MacSharry: “Ok. Do you know the number of that statutory instrument by any chance?”

McCarthy: “97.”

MacSharry: “Ok. €317,000 per year. You’re saying it’s an allowance but it’s not renumeration. So, in ten years, that’s €3.2million or thereabouts?”

McCarthy: “Obviously, yeah.”

MacSharry: “Do you know what it’s used for? Does that act prescribe…”

McCarthy: “No, it doesn’t prescribe what it’s use for…”

MacSharry: “Ok. So. €317,000 per year allowance, not audited, we don’t know what it’s used for and it’s not prescribed in law. Is that correct?”

McCarthy: “The purpose is not prescribed in law.”

MacSharry: “It’s purpose meaning it’s use – what it’s used for?”

McCarthy: “Other then that it is a payment that can be made to the president, that’s what the law says.”

Later

MacSharry: “What we have – €317,000 per year, provided under an act, we don’t know what it’s for, it’s an allowance. We don’t know what it’s purpose is for, it could be spent, theoretically, on anything, it mightn’t be spent at all, presumably. Is this an amount that’s surrender-able at the end of the year or…”

McCarthy: “No. It’s not surrender-able.”

MacSharry: “Ok, so it’s an allowance for unknown items, or unknown purposes, not audited and presumably not subject to taxation because it’s not salary or whatever.

McCarthy: “That’s correct yeah.”

Later

MacSharry: “Is it reasonable to say, and I know sometimes my language is a little bit flippant but is this a €317,000 payment on the blind? That no-one passes any remote oversight, notion, idea, look, at what it’s spent on? Is that the case?”

McCarthy:I don’t know, deputy.”

Later

McCarthy: “I do have a piece of information which may be relevant. In 2011, an amount of €357,000 was returned to the Central Fund at the end of the previous president’s [McAleese] presidency.”

MacSharry: “That would indicate then…sorry, just because it’s on the same thread…that this €317,000 can be paid per annum, be accumulated and then, if there’s amounts left over, as would seem to be the case in 2011, the balance was refunded to the Central Exchequer. Ok. But still, whoever was the incumbent, or whoever was responsible at that time, we don’t know what the money was spent on per year and we still don’t.”

“We want to get the procedures but we do know the Secretary General of An Taoiseach doesn’t know, the C&AG is not responsible and doesn’t know and the Department of Finance Secretary General, according to yourself, the C&AG, also doesn’t know, or doesn’t have a role in auditing that amount of money. So I think that’s significant.”

Follow PAC proceedings live here

45 thoughts on “The President’s €317,000 Top-Up ‘Allowance’

    1. hapff

      ‘fond of the high life and the big house’ is Higgins’ major weakness. hard to say which candidate will lead with it though

      Reply
      1. MaryLou's ArmaLite

        This isn’t related to Michael D, it was set before he got there, whoever gets in will have the same allowance, just like the previous president did.

        Reply
        1. Cian


          11.1° The President shall have an official residence in or near the City of Dublin.
          11.2° The President shall receive such emoluments and allowances as may be determined by law.
          11.3° The emoluments and allowances of the President shall not be diminished during his term

          This issue needs to be resolved before the Presidential Election – or we’re stuck for another 7 years…
          of office.

          Reply
        2. hapff

          oh for sure, had it been raised before. but the fact that Higgins previously said he would only serve one term, and now that this allowance is being highlighted, it will be very easy to make this argument stick

          Reply
  1. Brother Barnabas

    a beneficiary of one of FF’s most corrupt dynasties is questioning the auditor general about the questionable payment of large sums of money…. dum dum dum

    Reply
    1. Andrew

      That’s what struck me too. This lad McSharry son of Ray along with his party rely on the public having short memories or just not caring. They are probably correct to make that assumption
      However it does seem bizarre that this amount of money is unaccountable and can’t even be questioned.

      Reply
  2. Ronan

    So an allowance set by a statutory instrument from 1998 is being questioned in 2018 by a FF TD who seems to be forgetting who was in power from 1997 to 2007.

    If anyone doesn’t see that the whole play here with the PAC is to give FF man Sean Gallagher ammunition for the presidential election campaign then they are fools.

    Reply
    1. Name

      If the Taoiseach has sorted out this internal audit committee
      issue sooner then we probably wouldn’t be having this committee it’s the Taoiseach’s fault.

      Reply
    1. Holden MaGroin

      Thank you for your recent application for Uachtarain na hEireann. We are sorry but we are no longer talking applications for this position. Please note that we will keep your CV on file should another opportunity arise.

      FYI: Ther’s a job going on Dragons Den.

      Good luck.

      Reply
    1. Cian

      S.I. No. 455/1997 – Presidential Establishment Act, 1938 (Section 1 (3)) Order, 1997 provides for an increase in the annual allowance paid to the President from £100,000 per annum to £120,000 per annum, with effect from 11 November 1997.

      http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1997/si/455/made/en/print

      From the original legislation of 1938: “The emoluments and allowances to be received by the President in pursuance of section 11 of Article 12 of the Constitution shall be at the rate of ten thousand pounds per annum, whereof five thousand pounds shall be the personal remuneration of the President.”
      So there was a 50:50 split of salary:allowance

      Reply
  3. Martco

    a ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaa :) :)
    amazed this is news but how and ever….this is why I despair at all this presidential election mullarkey..for an utter rolls royce gig that’s nothing less than a luxury item, nothing to do with everyday life, a paid pet vanity arts & culture ambassador. queen of england stuff.
    ridiculous
    sure who wouldn’t want that “job” forever if possible!?!
    and people on here getting their knickers in a twist about this “election”?!? amazing. it’s the thing itself ye should be exercised about – the function should have actual power to get things done, else delete it!
    nonsense
    end rant

    Reply
  4. Declan

    The comments here make the Shinnerbots and Blueshirts look respectable and insightful – could you all not ring Joe at the same time????

    Reply
  5. Iwerzon

    I’m sure if you ask himself he will tell you what the Euro317k is for and how it is spent. Maybe broadsheet and everyone else should be returning to the one day news wonder that was buried very quickly – how a woman drove up to the Aras, walked into the President’s office and gave out to him. She could easily have stole him. Can the guards not do anything with professionalism. They are fn useless and no wonder morale has reached rock bottom with signs of mining!!!!

    Reply
  6. postmanpat

    So maybe some intrepid reporter should ask Mary McAleese next time they see her what she remembers spending €317k X (how many years in office) minus €357k on. ? No wonder every piss artist, crackpot journalist, Eurovision song winner and IRA terrorist chances their arm going for the president gig!

    Reply
  7. Daisy Chainsaw

    Will former president and FF candidate McAleese be summoned before this committee and asked for receipts? She got 14 years worth of this allowance, courtesy of Mr MacSharry’s party. The deliberate trashing of MDH for something Fianna Fail instigated for their own benefit is typical of them.

    Reply
    1. axelf

      the deliberate thrashing of MDH is deserved as a) he lied about seeking a single term and b) that’s some socialism to be pocketing over half a mill a year with a free gaff etc

      Reply
      1. Daisy Chainsaw

        He changed his mind. That’s hardly a lie. Have you never changed your mind about something in your entire life?

        Reply
  8. Ollie Cromwell

    Every Irish MEP gets €50,000 expenses a year which they don’t have to account for and is not made public by the EU.
    We can’t even find out whether anyone has not claimed the full €50,000.
    It’s not in the same league as the President gig but a handy earner nevertheless.

    Reply
  9. BS

    jaysis….thats a fair whack of tipping around money…

    15 grand a week….on top of your salary! plus they have no living expenses, food and board is free, transport is free, the odd trip away is free…

    im struggling to find a way to spend 15 grand a week, apart from a healthy gak habit and a penchant for sushi served off bare ladies bottoms…..but im nearly sure i could only do that for a couple of months….7 years?!

    Reply
  10. Vanessa off the Telly

    I was going to say something about being miffed at myself for not giving it a lash
    But I think its too soon

    ‘Only popped in to say to ye that MacSharry is looking for some spot light here
    The FF Leadership didn’t want this coming up at PAC at all

    So the real questions are not what is it spent on; (garden Parties, Dinners, Entertaining, Gifts etc)

    But why is Marc kicking it off at all?

    Dun dunt doooonnnnn

    Reply
    1. Cian

      I’d like to know what it’s spent on.
      The Presidency is costing €4.3m this year (excluding OWP costs for Aras staffing – another 900K). Where is that money going? €1.7m is for staff salaries. €0.3m travel. €250K on his salary. There is €1.2m per year paid in centenarians’ bounty…
      So there is 800K million left for everything else: Garden Parties, Dinners, Entertaining?

      https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/revealed-how-much-the-office-of-the-president-costs-over-seven-years-36785078.html

      Saying that, MDH is gifting €169,952 back to the State every year. €76,493 voluntary reduction of his salary as President; €53,558 in Oireachtas pension payments; and €39,901 of ministerial pension not drawn down.

      Reply
  11. small ads

    Can we have a quango to look at all political wages? And can we have a study of civil service and political wages since the foundation of the State, please?

    Reply
  12. Skateboarder

    Every candidate knew this before today.
    Money for nothing and the photo-ops and skateboards are free.

    We need a President who will be a President.
    Not a second-rate Queen who’s ‘down with da kids’ and talks ‘ás gaeilge’.

    Michael D. is a lovely man, but has anyone seen him pulling off a 1080°?
    – I don’t think so.

    We need young blood.

    Reply

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