‘Show me the money — not!’ says Enda Kenny
Deaglán de Bréadún
The big political story of the day turned out to be Enda Kenny’s surprise announcement that he had asked for his TD’s salary of €106,581 to be cut by five per cent. This is all over the news media but at time of writing it is unclear whether he can in fact cut his own pay (or indeed if anyone else can). The mandarins themselves could not give me a clear substantive answer on this.
Some years ago, Progressive Democrats Des O’Malley and Bobby Molloy tried to refuse their ministerial pensions. This ended up in a Kafkaesque nightmare, the details of which are shrouded in the mists of time but, if memory serves, their attempted voluntary gesture ended up costing them even more money than they were sacrificing since they were taxed on pension payments they did not receive.
Kenny himself recently dismissed the notion on Today FM as “populist nonsense” but now he has changed his mind. It sounds like he may have got wind of a Government proposal to do something similar on Budget Day (that fickle and unreliable creature Dame Rumour says ten per cent, but despite repeated and persistent inquiries it was not possible to confirm this today, such is the official Omerta on the Budget contents .)
If that turns out to be the case, then the FG leader has stolen a march on Fianna Fáil and their Green buddy-buddies. If they proceed with their own pay-cut, they will look rather sheepish. If they hold back, they will be dismissed as meanies. (Incidentally, if ‘Inda’ turns out to have inside info on FF’s plans it means that, as John Le Carré would say, “there is a mole in the circus”; now I wonder who that could be, hah?)
There was clearly some annoyance among Kenny’s FG colleagues, who were not consulted in any way, shape or form. One of them said privately that, instead of focusing on Government mismanagement of the economy, the media would now be highlighting the divisions over salaries inside Fine Gael, with some following the leader and others not.
Anyway, after two major Cowen “strokes” in the form of the early Budget and the bank guarantee, it was interesting to see that ‘Inda’ can pull a wee stroke of his own. Despite the annoyance of some 0f his colleagues, he will gain from this move, which is clearly striking a chord with a public that sees its leaders feeding joyfully at the trough.
Of course, if it turns out that he can’t in fact get his pay reduced, it might look like an empty gesture, with consequent criticism down the road. But that’s politics.
Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times