Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein TD's secret deal to pocket €90k salary belies party's 'industrial wage' line

By Niall O'Connor

A Sinn Fein TD struck a secret deal with the party that allows him to draw down his entire Dail salary of more than €90,000, it can be revealed.

Dublin North-West deputy Dessie Ellis told party bosses that he could not afford to accept the average industrial wage because doing so would push his family "below the poverty line".

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

But now it has been established that the party secretly allowed one of its most senior TDs to flout the policy and withdraw the entire Dail salary, which rose to €93,598 (£82,493) on January 1.

Contacted last night, Mr Ellis confirmed that he had drawn down the entire salary since his election in 2011.

He said the decision was taken due to personal financial matters and that he intends to change his approach to his pay in the future.

"I am working with the party on this matter," Mr Ellis added.

It is understood that he told the party in 2011 he was in financial difficulty due to child maintenance issues.

He said at the time that he needed to draw down the entire Dail salary or else his family could fall "below the poverty line".

Up until recently Sinn Féin TDs and senators were asked to hand back €2,500 (£2,203) to the party each year and accept a take home pay of around €37,000 (£32,610), which is similar to the average pay in the manufacturing sector.

The remaining sum of around €47,000 (£41,424) is then used for constituency purposes, such as an additional premises or staff member.

Sinn Fein launched a review of its pay policy last year which resulted in TDs being allowed a take home €39,500 (£34,813).

However, the €2,500 annual stipend still applies, as does the obligation to spend the remaining portion of the salary on constituency purposes.

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.

But the revelation that Sinn Fein allowed one of its TDs to flout the policy will place renewed pressure on its de facto leader Mary Lou McDonald.

It will also lead to suggestions that other side deals were struck with TDs which allows them to take home higher salaries than claimed publicly.

In an interview last year Ms McDonald said she was proud of the tradition of her colleagues only taking the average industrial wage.

The Dublin Central TD said the policy keeps Sinn Fein "rooted" and "real", however, she said that TDs "live in the real world".

Ms McDonald said on the decision to hold a review into the pay policy: "It keeps us rooted, it keeps us real.

"But we live in the real world and these things have to be reviewed.

"We will decide on it democratically."

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said it was up to TDs whether they followed the policy.

"The Sinn Fein average wage is adhered to on an entirely voluntary basis by the party's elected representative and is a matter for them only.

"Sinn Fein will not discuss the private financial business of any of our elected representatives."

Dubliner Ellis is a former TV repair man who was initially arrested in Dublin on explosive charges in 1981, but jumped bail and fled to Canada and then to the US.

He was arrested in New York in February 1982 on immigration offences.

He was extradited to the Republic and in 1983 was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in Portlaoise.

In 1990 he was the first person charged under the 1987 Extradition Act on an explosives charge in England. He was eventually acquitted in a trial at the Old Bailey.

Belfast Telegraph

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