News from ireland By Frank Shouldice Gov't Takes Pay Hike With widespread evidence of the
News from ireland
By Frank Shouldice
Gov't Takes Pay Hike
With widespread evidence of the economy slowing down, the Irish government aroused an angry public reaction by awarding itself a double-figure pay hike. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will take a 14 percent pay rise which, at 38,000 euros, is itself worth 5,000 euros more than the average industrial wage.
The substantial pay increase will apply to cabinet ministers as well as senior officers in the civil service, garda (Irish police force) and academia. Its generous terms were recommended by a civil service review committee, and the Taoiseach dismissed criticism by saying the pay award was calculated by an independent body.
"I don't tend to worry about these things," he said blithely when it was pointed out he will now earn 310,000 euros per year. "The Government will implement the pay scales . . . that's it."
For many, however, it is strange that the elected leader of a country of about four million people should be paid a salary greater than that of other international leaders, including George W. Bush, Gordon Brown and the premiers of economic powerhouses like Germany and France.
In comparison with his EU colleagues, Bertie Ahern will earn well over double the salary of the Dutch prime minister and six times the pay of Polish counterpart Donald Tusk. The Taoiseach insisted he would not trouble himself with such comparisons.
However, as state revenue begins to tail off from taxing a slowing economy, the immediate prospect for state finances is not so encouraging. Wage negotiations between unions and state bodies are expected to be more difficult than usual, and the government's readiness to handsomely reward itself in a time of retrenchment will surely raise the temperature. Following the pay award controversy, Fianna Fil's approval rating crashed by nine percent (to 33 percent) in a TMS/mrbi opinion poll. Bertie Ahern's personal rating fell by an even more significant 15 percent (to 43 percent).
O'Loan Reopens Nelson Case
Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has found that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now named the Police Service of Northern Ireland) failed to deal properly with threats that preceded the murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.
The 40-year-old solicitor was killed when a bomb was planted beneath her car in Lurgan, Co. Armagh in 1999. A loyalist group calling itself the Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibility for the killing.
Rosemary Nelson represented a number of high-profile cases and also acted on behalf of the Garvaghy Road Residents, a nationalist community opposed to the Orange Lodge parade walking through the Garvaghy neighborhood in Portadown, Co. Armagh. Her work attracted open hostility and even death threats from loyalist elements, but the ombudsman's investigation into her death found that the police "did not properly consider the particular nature of Mrs. Nelson's public profile or the level of concern about her safety."
Nelson's murder was reviewed by Canadian judge Peter Cory who recommended that an independent tribunal of inquiry be set up to examine the case. That inquiry is now scheduled to start, but the police ombudsman's report supports the suspicion that the RUC failed to provide protection for the lawyer.
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