That must be quite some special advice… July 18, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
I’m still fascinated by the issue of special advisers pay in the Coalition. Ruairí Quinn apologia is curious in the extreme. As the Irish Times noted earlier in the week:
An internal Labour survey recently revealed the breach of the €92,672 pay cap for special advisers was the single biggest issue raised on the doorstep when TDs and Senators were canvassing in the fiscal treaty referendum campaign.
“That was only because we set a bar for pay that we broke ourselves,” Mr Quinn said in an interview with The Irish Times.
That’s true. But he continues:
“It was one of the things that came up on the doorstep . . . In retrospect, yes, we would have done it differently if we had the chance, given the way it was done,” he said. “I suspect every day in retrospect about at least two of 10 decisions that I would make I would do differently.”
And what would he do differently in the case of special advisers? “Probably set a more realistic level of remuneration.”
It’s strange this expectation that an advisor would receive more money than a TD and the wage limit was set ‘is equivalent to the salary of the highest-paid principal officers in the Civil Service’. Should an advisor receive more than that?
Look at the figures for remuneration of said advisors. €127,000, €114,000, €110,000 and so on. These are, let’s admit it, fantastic sums. One could view jobs like this as a service to the state, and in that respect as something where one would give as much as receive – or putting such foolish idealism aside, because after all we’re seeing precious little of it exhibited in this instance one could argue that Quinn’s attitude simply makes no sense. Where is the compulsion to work in these jobs? And in the context of mass unemployment one suspects that a ‘realistic level of remuneration’ could be quite some way south of €92,672. And I don’t say that lightly, simply that there are numerous individuals with a wide range of skills who would work for €91k, or €81k or €51k and still consider those pretty damn good wages by any mean or mention.
But what’s particularly curious is the way in which none of that seems to impact. The problem isn’t – at least to judge from Quinn’s words, that the advisors are paid way in excess of what they should be given the positions they hold, but that people perceive that they’re paid too much. And he throws in the entirely diversionary issue of the existence of special advisors themselves when he says ‘pay levels should be separated from the concept of special advisers, which he strongly defended. “The Labour Party invented special advisers, going back in fact to 1973,”
“But the concept of the special advisers, I mean the pay that they’re on now is a fraction, is half of what it was under Bertie Ahern. Coalition governments would not work without special advisers.” That was why the British Labour Party had followed the Irish model, he said.
A ‘fraction… half of what it was under Bertie Ahern’? I don’t think that cuts it in the current climate, let alone that it should have cut it ever.
It’s also odd how muted the response has been to this. One letter in the Irish Times today which asks the reasonable question…
Perhaps the pay “cap” set for bankers at a mindboggling €500,000 which really means a remuneration package worth €800,000? Who are these guys kidding?