Clare Daly defends hiring Mick Wallace’s son as EU assistant

Since 2009, MEPs can no longer employ close relatives for parliamentary roles

Newly elected MEP Clare Daly has hired the son of her political colleague Mick Wallace as her European Parliament assistant. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Newly elected MEP Clare Daly has hired the son of her political colleague Mick Wallace as her European Parliament assistant. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Newly elected Dublin MEP Clare Daly has defended hiring the son of her political colleague, Ireland South MEP Mick Wallace as one of her three European Parliament assistants.

Since 2009, MEPs can no longer employ close relatives. The maximum monthly amount available for all of costs involved in recruiting personal assistants is €24,943 per MEP.

Saying she stood over the appointment, Ms Daly declared: “They’re all highly-qualified for the job and in the case of Fionn Wallace, I’m lucky to get him,” she told EuroParl radio on Thursday, “(He) has a “great research track record”.

Saying she considered herself fortunate in all of the people she has employed, she went on: “They’re the best people for the job and the conditions of the job were set by others, not by me,” she said.

The names of all assistants are published on the European Parliament ’s website for the duration of their contract. MEPs were banned from hiring immediate family members in 2009, finally ending in 2014.

MEPs are not barred from hiring members of the family of colleagues, and such a rule could not be imposed, say members of the parliament. Recruits must be able to perform the work required, however.

Two Fine Gael TDs, Noel Rock and Alan Farrell said they had no difficulty with Ms Daly employing Mr Wallace’s son, who had previously worked for his father in Leinster House.

In 2015, Mick Wallace Snr paid his 35-year-old son nearly €20,000 out of his annual Dáil allowance. He was paid €14,500 for research duties as a contractor, plus €4,500 more for policy work.

Saying that family connections are irrelevant if the person hired is the best one for the job, Dublin North West TD, Noel Rock said no open competition had taken place for the Brussels post.

MEPs have a budget of €24,943 per month to meet the costs of hiring staff, though the MEPs do not receive this money directly. A quarter of the budget must be spent on Brussels-based assistants.

Full-time parliamentary assistants are paid on a 19-point grading, starting at €21,504 and running to €99,036. The minimum salary for policy specialists starts on Grade 7 at €37,524, rising to grade 19 at €99,036 depending on qualifications and experience. Mr Wallace Jnr. would be expected to be on a grade between 7 and 19.

MEPs can chose “accredited assistants” - three, or, exceptionally four - based in Brussels and Strasbourg who are managed under the parliament’s administration and staff conditions.

The balance can be used to hire “local” assistants based in member states. These are managed administratively by special paying agents to ensure that tax and social security requirements are properly met.

The assistants are required to avoid external activities that may cause a conflict of interest.. The names of all assistants are published on parliament’s website.

Until the introduction of rules banning family hires, many MEPs employed spouses, or children. After 2009, they were given five years to unwind arrangements.

In 2013 Marine Le Pen employed her partner, now MEP, Louis Aliot as an assistant. Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage employed his wife from 2006 as a parliamentary assistant.

When the complete ban entered into force in 2014,Farage’s then fellow UKIP MEP Raymond Finch hired her to be his parliamentary assistant. Several Latvian MEPs copied his example.

MEPs are paid €8,757.70 a month in gross salary and are entitled to travel expenses, a daily allowance to cover accommodation, a general expenditure allowance and medical costs.

Ms Daly described the European Parliament expenses as “absolutely crazy”.

“There’s no secret there. It’s been highlighted many times and it of course applies to all MEPs. We will be fully transparent in terms of how I account for my use of expenses and in terms of the staff I’ve employed,” she said.

Ms Daly and Mr Wallace are both members of the Independents4Change party and jointly announced plans to run for the European Parliament ahead of the elections in May.

The former TDs both made their first speeches in the European Parliament on Tuesday.

Ms Daly, Dublin MEP, addressed the parliament during a debate on the situation in Venezuela.

Mr Wallace, Ireland South MEP, was critical of the EU for being silent about US foreign and aggression against Iran.

Among past MEPs who have hired family members in the 90s Green Nuala Ahern, who employed he niece Roisin, Ian Paisley, who employed his son, now MP, Ian Paisley Jnr to manage his office in the North, and Dana Scallon, whose brother John Brown worked for her in Brussels and Ireland.