Coveney adviser's patriotism stressed to secure special pay

Mon, Jan 16, 2012, 00:00

THE MINISTER for Agriculture stressed the patriotic credentials of his special adviser when securing a €130,000 salary for him, Freedom of Information documents have revealed. The adviser left after five months to work in England.

Simon Coveney wrote to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin last March saying he needed to offer the salary, which breached the recommended €92,672 cap, and which made former Greencore executive Fergal Leamy the best-paid Government adviser outside the Department of the Taoiseach.

“Fergal has a strong commitment to public service and is anxious to contribute at a national level in our drive towards recovery. He already has a stable career in business . . . However, he has a personal commitment to the country and is anxious to make a contribution by offering his knowledge and skills . . .”

Mr Coveney said: “For this reason I am requesting a remuneration package reflecting an increase over and above that outlined in the guidelines in respect of special advisers be considered. In order to secure the services of Fergal Leamy, I will need to offer a salary of €130,000 per annum.”

Mr Leamy had been chief executive of Greencore USA, where his salary was €430,000. Mr Coveney’s brother Patrick Coveney is chief executive of the parent firm.

Mr Howlin wrote to Mr Coveney saying the guidelines assigned salaries to special advisers equal to the Civil Service principal officer scale of €80,051-€92,672.

“One of the reasons for the agreed rate was to break the linkage between the rate for the job of special adviser and previous salary rates in other employment,” he said. However, he was prepared to sanction the move “given the particular circumstances applying in this case and current rate of Mr Leamy’s remuneration”.

Mr Leamy started working with Mr Coveney last April, but in September it emerged he had been headhunted by a private equity firm in London. Mr Coveney said at the time he was “a bit disappointed because he’s a good guy, but I’m not going to stand in the way of anyone’s career path”.

They remain on good terms.

Mr Leamy told The Irish Times at the weekend: “Pure and simple, I got an opportunity in London to work with a private equity group which was too good to turn down. My intention was always to work with the Minister in the short to medium term, but this probably came up a little sooner than we were both expecting.”

His replacement is expected to be approved by Cabinet shortly.

Mr Coveney’s other adviser, Áine Kilroy, is on a salary of €80,051. The Irish Times revealed last week Mr Howlin that wanted to pay his own special adviser a salary of more than €133,600 but was advised not to do so.