In the first half of 2011 Enda Kenny’s self-proclaimed “democratic revolution” brought his centre-right Fine Gael party to power in Ireland, supported by the nominally centre-left Labour Party. Despite claims that the new administration would break the decades old practice of cronyism, nepotism and party-largesse that characterized Irish political parties in government since the 1960s the “Fine Oibre” coalition soon reverted to type. By the end of the year a smorgasbord of jobs generously funded by the tax-payer were being strewn like confetti to party-loyalists, benefactors, lobbyists and hangers-on. In particular the highly-desired position of a ministerial “special advisor” became the favoured (and legally less contentious) way of paying off old debts to steadfast supporters. Some twenty-seven senior advisors were appointed to a variety of roles in 2011, all of whom had close ties to the respective parties, factions or influential individuals within them. Starting on a minimum of €80,000 per annum several were earning up to €168,000 pa by the end of the year, a pay level almost equal to that of a democratically elected cabinet minister.
So, as the next general election looms on the horizon and the polls predict doom and gloom for the government parties, it is perhaps no surprise that senior coalition figures are scrambling to ensure that their supporters are gifted princely sums of cash before their enforced retirements. The Labour Party in particular, under the command of that most self-entitled and self-regarding of leaders, Táinaiste Joan Burton, has pulled out all the stops to dig into the public coffers, its nerves frayed by the (over-stated?) predictions of looming annihilation at the ballot box. From the Irish Independent:
“Several Cabinet ministers last year intervened to bump up the pay of their special advisers, above the level originally proposed by Brendan Howlin’s spending department.
The majority of ministers who presented the “exceptional” cases on behalf of their advisers were Labour Party TDs.
In September, Environment Minister Alan Kelly sought to appoint Liam Cahill to an advisory role with a salary of €88,936. Mr Kelly claimed Mr Cahill has “wide-ranging experience” in public administration, as well as a “broad knowledge of public and media relations”.
Separately, Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s officials sought that his adviser Paul Bolger be paid €3,000 more than the level set down by the spending department.
It’s also emerged that Communications Minister Alex White wrote to Mr Howlin’s officials seeking to place his special adviser Bernard Harbor on a scale higher than the standard scale for principal officers.
His adviser Madeline Mulrennan was also offered the highest principal officer salary of €91,624, an October 15 document states.
Documents also show that Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney secured a €25,000 salary increase last July for his adviser Caitriona Fitzpatrick.
It was previously revealed that Tánaiste Joan Burton sought to have her former PA Karen O’Connell put on a salary of €79,401 but sanction was given for €75,647.
Ms Burton’s chief of staff Ed Brophy also saw his salary increased from €119,572 to €144,550 – and she secured a salary of €114,424 for her economic adviser Terry Quinn.”
However while the current members of the Neo-Ascendancy feather their nests in preparation for a possible long winter of Opposition politics, elsewhere in the country Seán and Síle Citizen is offered a different form of free bed and lodging by the state. From TheJournal.ie:
“ANTI-AUSTERITY ALLIANCE TD Paul Murphy has described yesterday’s jailing of four anti-water charge protesters as an attack “on the right of communities to protest against the imposition of austerity measures”.
The politician – who himself was arrested and questioned for his role in last November’s Jobstown protest – said the court had jailed the four at the behest of Irish Water contractors GMC Sierrra “so that they can continue to try to impose water meters on communities which have risen up in peaceful protest against their installation”.
“Once again, the courts have been used to attack the right of people to engage in peaceful protest.”
In the same statement, AAA councillor Michael O’Brien accused the Gardaí of acting “as bully boys on behalf of the government and GMC Sierra through physical attacks and harassment of those who have engaged in the protests”.
Five Dublin protesters – one of whom was not in court yesterday, as he was abroad – were found in contempt of a court order and sentenced to at least 28 days in prison.”
While some are gripped by despair when they see the actions of a state undermining its own legitimacy while enthralled to external forces whose interests run contrary to that of the inhabitants of the state itself, others see an opportunity to challenge those very forces. From Her.ie:
“Traffic ground to a standstill in Dublin city centre this evening as hundreds took to the streets in solidarity with four members of the anti-water charges campaign that were jailed earlier today.
The ruling has been met with anger this evening, with up to 300 people taking part in a city centre demonstration from O’Connell Street to Mountjoy Prison.
Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy has also slammed the move…
“The attacks from the State on the campaign against water charges needs to be met with a significant response by the campaign and communities, the protest which has been organised against political policing following the Jobstown arrests on Saturday can be a response in opposition to these attacks.””