Taoiseach's ministers of state cost £228,000


THE four Fine Gael ministers of state attached to the Department of the Taoiseach are costing over £228,000 a year in salaries and expenses, the House was told.

They are Mr Gay Mitchell, Mr Donal Carey, Mr Jim Higgins and Ms Avril Doyle.

Mr Mitchell's private and constituency office has a staff of 12 at a cost of £186,000; Mr Carey has a staff of eight at a cost of £145,000; Mr Higgins has a staff of nine at a cost of £162,000. Ms Doyle does not have a private or constituency office based in the Department.

Foreign and home travel costs for Mr Mitchell and his staff last year came to £30,307 and for Mr Carey and his staff £30,712. No travel costs were incurred last year for Mr Higgins and Ms Doyle.

A non recurrent amount of £13,458 was spent by the Department last year in office equipment and furniture for the offices of the ministers of state. The operating costs for mobile phones allocated to them and their staff was £7,300 last year.

Outlining the figures, in reply to the Fianna Fail leader Mr Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach defended political staff levels in Government departments. Mr Bruton said the rate of growth in most other categories of State employment had been faster and more considerable than in the political area.

"I further take the view that if there is to be accountability - and this is a matter that deputies are referring to frequently here - there must be people in the political area, either ministers, ministers of state or programme managers, who are in a position to ask the appropriate questions and prepare the appropriate answers."

He believed the level of political input to Government was about right, and he would not favour any increase in the current employment levels.

Mr Ahern said that with the extra ministers of state and advisers, the whole State apparatus was top heavy. "It is being seen as a totally cynical exercise, whether the Taoiseach accepts it or no."

Mr Bruton agreed with Michael McDowell (PD, Dublin South East) that it was desirable to reduce the size of official delegations travelling abroad. The information they obtained could be pooled and a relatively smaller group could do the job.