Taoiseach must clarify issue of unlawful payment to Minister, and outline who will be paid to attend Cabinet - Howlin

Issued 20 June 2017

Labour Party Leader, Brendan Howlin TD has called on the Taoiseach to clarify whether he has confirmed that the payment to the Chief Whip of the Government over the last year and more was unlawful; when he will begin to recoup this additional allowance; and to tell the public which two of his four super junior Ministers will be paid to attend Cabinet.

Deputy Howlin said:

“For many years, the convention was that a chief whip and one ‘super-junior’ Minister attended Cabinet. In 2001, legislation was enacted to establish this convention on a statutory basis.

"Under law, the Government may only pay an additional allowance to two Ministers of State who regularly attend Cabinet meetings. After the last election three ‘super’ Juniors were appointed – only two of whom were entitled to the extra €15,829-a-year for attending Cabinet meetings.

"This issue was overcome by creating a new allowance for the position of Chief Whip. Payments for the position of Whip however has been for a parliamentary position, not a Government position. Previously the payment for the Chief Whip was provided for through their allowance received due to their role as a Minister of State attending Cabinet.

"There are now four Ministers of State who attend Government, one of whom has also been appointed Chief Whip.

"Section 41 of the 2001 Act, which substituted a new section 6 to the 1998 Act, outlines in 6 (2) that a Party Whip’s allowance may not be paid to any Minister of State.

"It is now incumbent on the Taoiseach to clarify that the payment of this allowance was unlawful, and that he will not make immediate arrangements for this payment to be recovered by the state.

"Furthermore, he should reveal which two of his four Super-Juniors will be paid to attend Cabinet. No Ministers are in receipt of any allowances until a new Statutory Instrument is laid before the Houses, so it will fall entirely to the Taoiseach to decide which Ministers will receive the full rate of pay.

“In seeking to keep Fine Gael TDs happy, the new Taoiseach has further increased the number of ‘super-junior’ Ministers. But in doing so, he seems to have paid little attention to the legal constraints on the number of people who can be paid for such roles."