Is Sinn Fein’s living on the average wage claim all that it seems?

17 Feb

My Evening Herald column from today’s paper. Friday 17th February 2012

Sinn Féin

There are few topics more guaranteed to raise the hackles than politicians’ pay. I recently overheard a conversation on the topic in a pub in Cork. It was hard not to hear it given the volume of the exchange. This was curious as they were agreeing with each other – their argument was as to which of them detested politicians more.

The late Brian Lenihan kick started the process of trying to bring down the levels of politicians’ pay and expenses back in October 2008. There have been a few rounds since. Enda Kenny started out ok reducing the number of garda drivers and cutting staff levels in ministerial offices, but recently lost the plot with the €17k pay hikes for Super Juniors.

The issue of reducing politicians’ pay and re-allocating that money elsewhere even raised its head during the Presidential election. Several candidates said they favoured a cut, including Martin McGuinness who promised to only take home the average industrial wage if elected.

In doing this he was repeating what Sinn Féin elected reps say they do in the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly. While TDs earn about €92K a year, Sinn Fein’s TDs say they take the average industrial wage: around €32,000 per year. Speaking to the Donegal Daily a few weeks ago SF TD Pearse Doherty put his weekly take home pay at around €540.

They frequently remind us of their largesse. Without a doubt anyone foregoing 60% of their salary is entitled to praise and kudos, but only when that is what they are really doing. So, this begs the question: are they truly foregoing the money?

Martin McGuinness partly answered this question in the Guardian newspaper in April 2009. This was in the aftermath of a report that he and Gerry Adams jointly claimed expenses of £3,600 a month (under the House of Commons second home allowance scheme) for rent on a shared two-bedroom flat in north London.

Speaking at the time Mr McGuinness said: “I get roughly over £300 per week from Sinn Féin, the exact same money as the person who drives me to my work”.

“I have no difficulty or problem with that, knowing that the rest of the money is being put into developing Sinn Féin and developing constituency offices all over the island of Ireland for the people of Ireland.”_

There are two things wrong with this statement. First, he regards Sinn Féin as his paymaster; not the taxpayer. Second, the sense of pride that the “rest of the money”, in his case in the region of £75k before tax, does not go back in to central funds to pay for hospital beds or SNAs: but rather goes to funding and advancing Sinn Féin’s political enterprise.

The money surrendered by Sinn Féin’s TDs and Senators does not benefit the taxpayer or the person on welfare: it benefits their own local party organisations. It goes to running constituency offices and funding local activists. In Pearse Doherty’s case it pays for two part time workers in his constituency

So, Sinn Féin takes money from the public coffers and puts it into running political operations dedicated to helping them keep their seats. This is not so much a sacrifice: it is more of an investment in their own political future.

Though on the average industrial wage, they get to be local employers with extra paid staff. I am fairly sure there are not many others on the industrial wage out there who can similarly hire someone in to help them keep their job.

Yet the rules state that a political party may not accept a donation from the same person in the same calendar year which exceeds €6,348.69 in value. So is what they are doing a donation or not?

It is an issue which freelance journalist Gerard Cunningham aka faduda.ie has attempted to raise with both Sinn Féin and SIPO, though without much success.

Is there a distinction between donations depending on whether they are allocated locally or nationally – if so, then it is a big loophole. If not, then shouldn’t all TDs and all Senators be placed on a level playing field when it comes to funding their local political activities?

Most important, if taxpayers money is being handed back – shouldn’t it be handed back to the taxpayer?

ENDS

8 Responses to “Is Sinn Fein’s living on the average wage claim all that it seems?”

  1. Seán Ó Briain February 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    I don’t see what the problem is here. You’re creating a strawman. They never claimed it goes back, and have always stated it is invested into the party and constituency(s). This has never been an ambiguous matter, and you’re not tackling anything of note.

    The reality is – they ‘live on’ an average industrial wage. They are not in politics for the money if that is the case. At least, this is what the rational person would extract from it.

    • dsmooney February 17, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

      The issue here is about SIPO – McGuinness describes it as funding Sinn Fein across the county – yet SIPO closes its eyes. As for “living on” the aiw, SF TDs do claim their travel expenses and per diems (as they are fully entitled to) which brings their take home above that weekly aiw

  2. bradzer February 18, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    A load of hot air about nothing. In any normal country what Sinn Féin TDs and Joe Higgins are doing would be lauded and held up as an example. But not in Ireland…..oh no……..Ould begrudgery takes over!!
    Do you not realise that we are emerging from an era when politicians disgraced themselves by prioritising excessive pay and expenses and were involved in corruption — totally discrediting politics? Then a party comes along which tries to demonstrate that politics can be done differently and you try to drag it into the mire!!
    You neither do yourself nor the Irish public any favours with this cynical non-story.

    • Paul March 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      No fan of the Shinners but this is a strawman post. At least they aren”t maxing out the credit card each month.

  3. Jason O'Mahony March 29, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    But do they pay tax on the €32k, and take home the balance, or is the tax paid on the total salary first, and then they take home 32 in the hand, which is not what an ordinary worker earning 32 gross does.

  4. Sean March 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Quite right, Sinn Fein are completely benifiting from the money they recieve they say it goes to furthering reducing unemployment, Im in the constituency Pearse Doherty is elected in and he is doing nothing for us, he is simply trying to further the party politically.

  5. shoegirl November 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Great work, Derek. Interesting that nobody above even notices the fact that they claim rental expenses on a flat in London for jobs that they refuse to do. SF are essentially a party of colonisers of sorts: their objective is to colonise the political space and power space previously occupied by FF down south and various parties up north. Power objectives no longer require millitary aggression, this has been replaced by a well oiled and well funded political machine.

    Of course, if such nonsensical pay and expenses were not advanced to politcal reps in Ireland and the UK in the first place, it would not be possible for SF to siphon off so much for their own political investment and advancement.

  6. An bhFionnuisce. February 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    With all due respect, as far as I know, there is no facility that allows the Party’s Elected Representatives to return part of their Salary, to the Taxpayer. I remember one, or a few trying just that, either with their Salary, or a Ministerial Pension, or something like that only to be told that they couldn’t to it. It’s a well known fact, that the difference between their Salary, and their ” Take Home Pay ” is used to fund Party Services. Providing Local Offices, for Elected Representatives to meet their Constituents, providing Ink, and Paper, that can be used, to make Newsletters, that can be distributed, in the Area, to keep you informed of what is going on, being able to employ a ‘ Constituency Assistant ‘, and so on. How do the other Elected Representatives fund these activities?

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