Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein overhauling rules over politician pay: Set to end average industrial wage for members of Irish parliament

By Niall O'Connor

Sinn Fein is to overhaul its rules surrounding TDs' pay after its politicians complained about the struggle to afford childcare costs and other bills, the Irish Independent has learned

In a significant development, the party is set to end the process of its TDs drawing the average industrial wage from their €87,000 Dáil salaries.

Sinn Fein representatives have for years made a virtue out of drawing lower wages than their political rivals - a move they say illustrates their commitment to the plight of working class families.

The party's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald previously said the principle applied in relation to pay is one she is "immensely proud of".

It's now emerged the party's pay structure will be subject to an internal review in a move that is likely to result in a pay boost for the 23 Sinn Féin TDs.

The Irish Independent understands the party hierarchy has come under pressure in recent months to overhaul the system after TDs and senators complained of their struggle with bills such as childcare.

One of the party's former TDs, Cork East's Sandra McLellan, previously complained about being unable to afford basic items such as make-up while living on the reduced pay.

The average TD is paid a basic salary of just over €87,000, plus expenses and travel allowance.

But under current Sinn Fein rules, Dail deputies are asked to hand back €2,500 to the party each year and accept a take home pay of around €38,000, which is similar to the average pay in the manufacturing sector.

But the remaining sum of around €47,000 is then used for constituency purposes such as an additional premises or staff member.

Newly-elected Waterford TD David Cullinane confirmed he has used this sum to open a second office.

Meanwhile, a senior Sinn Fein source confirmed that the pay structure will now be subject to an internal review, adding that the move reflects the financial challenges facing TDs and senators, particularly those with large families.

Pay and conditions are one of many issues that have been discussed at senior level within the party since the General Election, which saw Sinn Fein increase its seat numbers from 14 to 23. It's understood a decision has also been taken to strip TDs of their powers to hire their own staff.

The appointments of parliamentary and secretarial assistants is now controlled by an internal Human Relations committee, which is headed by the party's national chairperson Declan Kearney.

The behaviour by Sinn Fein supporters on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter has also been studied by senior party figures. The term "shinnerbot" is often used to describe anonymous online users who constantly hurl abuse at others who criticise Sinn Fein.

A senior source emphasised that many of the online abusers are not necessarily members of the party but that a set of strict of guidelines will nonetheless be sent to members in due course.

The party is this weekend holding its Ard Fheis in the Convention Centre, where Gerry Adams will be re-elected unopposed as party president.

Irish Independent

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