Independent Ministers win approval for special advisers

Canney and Halligan get green light to proceed with €65,000-a-year appointments

Minister of State at Office of Public Works Seán Canney has hired adviser who formerly worked with Kevin “Boxer” Moran. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister of State at Office of Public Works Seán Canney has hired adviser who formerly worked with Kevin “Boxer” Moran. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Two Independent Ministers of State have been given approval to hire special advisers.

Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Seán Canney and Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan made a case in early October for the appointments.

Ministers of State are only allowed to hire special advisers in “exceptional circumstances”.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform granted them approval last week to proceed with the €65,000-a-year appointments.

A department spokesman said: “A memo on arrangements relating to the staffing of ministerial offices’ was brought to Government in May.

Exceptional circumstances

“Due to the fact that Minister Halligan’s responsibilities span several departments (Jobs and Education) and due to the interdepartmental nature of the Government’s response to flooding, which is under Minister Canney’s responsibility, a case has been made for special advisers to be appointed to both.”

Mr Canney has hired Eugene Deering to assist him in his role. Mr Deering has worked with Independent Alliance TD Kevin “Boxer” Moran.

Mr Canney said he had insight into the reality of the flooding crisis and been an invaluable assistance to him when compiling a report on the problem.

Mr Halligan has hired Michelle Clancy for the position. Ms Clancy worked as a journalist for the Munster Express newspaper.

Mr Halligan strongly defended the appointment to The Irish Times yesterday. “As Independent Alliance TDs we have nothing, no backroom staff, researchers or advisers to assist us,” he said.

“My role spans over a number of departments and I need to make sure that I stay on top of my portfolio.”

The deputy Government spokeswoman said the roles were required to assist both Ministers with their work.

She said as Independents they did not have the same apparatus as others because they did not have the backing or the support of a party.

Approved

Both advisers have already begun working with their Ministers of State.

The total cost for all advisers to Government is over €3 million, according to figures released from the department.

The highest paid adviser is Mark Kennelly, who is deputy secretary to the Taoiseach. He receives a salary of €156,380 a year.

Each Minister is entitled to appoint two special advisers. In most cases one deals with policy matters while the other handles media matters.

Only one special adviser has breached the pay cap for advisers. Brian Murphy, who counsels Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, has a higher salary of €99,370. This was approved when Mr Varadkar was in the Department of Health.