Oh dear, Leo! Varadkar condemned as Micheal Martin shamed over ‘tone deaf’ move

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Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin yesterday confirmed his entire cabinet – including Fine Gael leader Mr Varadkar, who now occupies the post of Tanaiste, or deputy leader – would be taking a 10 percent pay cut. The move comes after controversial plans to pay three junior ministers, rather than two, an allowance for attending cabinet an extra €16,288 emerged last week.

Labour’s Finance Spokesman Ged Nash described the move as “tone deaf” in the current circumstances, with the coronavirus pandemic having a damaging impact on Ireland’s economy.

Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said the pay cut had been hastily-agreed in a bid to silence critics.

He told Express.co.uk: “It is very much damage limitation.

“I get the impression Leo is standing back a bit and allowing Martin his time in the limelight but ready to intervene occasionally.

“The pay rises for the junior ministers reflected badly on the whole Government, Leo included.”

Mr Martin is widely regarded to have made a shaky start to his tenure at the head of a three-way coalition between Ireland’s two major parties and the Greens, having also fired Barry Cowen after the Agriculture Minister refused to discuss his drink-driving conviction.

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Addressing Mr Martin’s decision, Mr Bassett said: “I think it is a recognition of how badly the recent pay rises for the junior Ministers went down with the public.

“The latest move is an attempt to claw back some of the lost credibility.

“The feedback was terrible and it was universally recognised that it was handled badly.

“I think Leo would have been consulted and agreed.

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“The motivation for Martin’s announcement is political survival.”

Speaking yesterday, Mr Martin said: “The Government today has taken a decision, which was in process, to give back 10 per cent of its salaries back to the State as and from the commencement of Government.

“So that is a 10 per cent cut in the rate of pay from Taoiseach right down to the entire Government and Ministers of State as well. That has been formalised today by the Cabinet.”

He admitted the issue of the allowances for super junior ministers could have been “handled better collectively by the Government, I would acknowledge that.”

Mr Martin has come in for caustic criticism, not least from within the ranks of his own party.

TD Willie O’Dea said his constituents were “incensed” said said the row sent out “a bad signal” about the durability of the coalition.

Another TD, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the situation as “absolutely atrocious”.

They added: “It is the worst thing we have done so far. No one in the public is buying the legitimacy of this.

“Every type of spin can be put on it but it is wrong.

“It looks horrendous. Politically it is hugely damaging.”

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the initial allowances decision was “an effort to fix an anomaly but accepted it had “stuck in the craw” of many during “a very difficult time in our country”.

Mr Martin’s latest ruling cuts his salary from €207,590 to €186,831, and Mr Varadkar’s from €191,403 to €172,263.

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