Review of top-level pay

One of the most disgraceful decisions of the last government was its U-turn on Assistant Secretaries’ pay. Personally, I wouldn’t blame any low-paid public servant from digging in their heels on pay and conditions when people at the top benefit from this kind of special consideration.

Guess what? They’ve gotten away with it again.

23 replies on “Review of top-level pay”

I see UCD will be hiring a Lecturer. As far as I understand pay will be less than €32k for new entrant. The govts pay policy is fairly nuts to be honest.

I believe TD’s parliamentary assistants havn’t been affected by the 10% reduction for new entrants, granted its for a fixed term, nor do they appear to be subject to the civil service pension levy even though their employment is pensionable. Starting salary of 41k euro is also questionable especially when similiar jobs in the UK hoover in the mid 20s. There also seems to be a trend to hire postgrads, but even then I think its overpaid for the job that they do.


It truly is remarkable, and I remember well when the representation of the higher senior civil servants, the Implementers, wrote a letter to then Minister Finance Mr. Lenihan, reacting to the proposed pay cuts. Their letter was nothing short of blackmail, explaining that they normally would seek a pay increase due to their performance and seniority.

Lenihan exempted them from cuts.


P.S. I enjoyed your March paper in IIIS, ‘Why the EU won’, perhaps a second paper is required, ‘Why the EU lost’ in the near future, starting with the unhealthy and overwhelming presence of EPP, in my opinion Europe’s true power brokers, and who now leads all three major EU Institutions top down?

@Kevin O’Rourke.

You are absolutely right. The lower paid PS should dig their heels in now.
How else can you respond to this level of greed.

It looks like the present course to ruin must run its course. Only a catharsis can correct it.

The “Protestant” in “Protestant Ascendancy” was merely an adjective. The concept of Ascendancy and the feckless, self-serving government that goes with it is very much alive in Ireland today.

The Minister should simply sack all existing assistant secretaries and replace them with foreign hires. The civil service needs an extreme shake up and the first and most important step should be getting rid of the fairly dim former rugby players at the top levels. I’m sure a nice retirement home can be found for most of them out in the Curragh.

When I previously worked in a government department, stories about internal promotions (and associated pay rises) in the D/Finance over the past year or so were pretty commonplace. I doubt there is hard evidence to support these claims, however these stories about A/Sec or PO’s feathering their own nests are devastating for morale at lower levels whether true or not.

D/Finance is about to preside over savage cutbacks in front line public services and is administering a crude employment/contract renewal embargo across the rest of the public service which essentially lops off the easiest (and lower paid) targets. It is remarkable that ‘senior’ officials can display such breath-taking arrogance in insulating themselves from pay cuts – their justification is presumably all the hard work they are now having to do to clean up the mess they helped create in the first place.

Nearly 4 years into our economic collapse and these people still do not get that closing the budget deficit requires a general perception of fairness.

Our policymakers would be well served to read Jens Henriksson’s 10 lessons about budget consolidation in the aftermath of the Swedish banking crisis (Bruegel) – Lesson 5: ‘Consolidation should be designed as a package …the idea is to signal that you are not partisan and that the budget deficit is a general problem that everyone should participate in solving’

Alas, policy elites are more interesting in setting up a new ‘senior public service’ whatever that means without the backbone to show leadership on basic issues such as administering pay cuts with a degree of proportionality.

This failure to appreciate the signalling benefits of administering ‘reform/consolidation’ in packages also applies to other areas such as combining reform of wage-setting mechanisms in lower paid sectors with genuine efforts to rein in the excesses of e.g. legal and medical professions.

The policy mistakes keep on coming because the people at the top refuse to accept any accountability for their performance. Surely now is the time to change the pernicious culture of jobs for life for the insiders?

While I can understand the notion that the President’s pay should not be cut while in office, given the incumbent is not running for re-election surely now is the time for a pay review?

@Mark Dowling – “given the incumbent is not running for re-election surely now is the time for a pay review?”

I daresay that there are people out there who would feel proud to do that job for free.

If we are to stay in the Euro we need to become competitive again with other EU countries. Why not benchmark senior public sector pay and pensions against the equivalent postions in a selection of other EU countries such as Finland, Sweden and Portugal? We should start with the positions of President, Taoiseach, Secretary of Dept. of Finance and Chief Justice.

“The Minister acknowledged that there might be contractual issues in relation to the application of any cap to current incumbents.”

If there is then pay them in IOUs instead of Euros borrowed on a maximum debt service basis, from “official funders”.

Having gone through the economic arguments about the extent or not to which it might be a mistake to go a non-Keynesian route for countries that have lost access to private sector funding, maybe it might be an idea to focus some more attention now onto the damage that a piecemeal – weakest-first / protected and connected last – route to Ireland’s deflation will do to its long run economic potential.

That might be more useful to the country and harder for the establishment to rebuff than just pointing out that some people are “getting away with” this or that. The man in the street in Ireland just shrugs his shoulders because he expects them to. Providing objective reasoned arguments as to why the national economic interest is being damaged might be more effective.

@grumpy: easy, in my sector. Imagine trying to hire some hot shot from overseas to improve a lagging university department and saying to her “by the way, you will be paid 10% less than the incumbents”

You can’t benchmark these guys. Who’d do it? Who’d be independent enough? How would you stop meddling from senior figures protecting their own salaries.

Forget benchmarking, you just need someone to look at the size and value of the economy, and give a cap on maximum public salaries, everything else can follow.

Take the last higher remuneration report, instead of pointing out anyone was overpaid it found that if you added in a unexplained, undocumented adjustment factor (no FOI allowed of course) for cost of living and taxes they were paid about right – compared to wealthy and better run countries at least. (A conclusion implied from that report was that senior Irish public servants needed a compensating pay rise every time taxes rose.)

They got in the same people who’d done the original higher remuneration reports, who possibly had an interest in explaining why their earlier reports weren’t bogus. I strongly suspect given a chance they’d be the ones picked again for another “benchmarking”.

@Kevin OR

…..and for the economy as a whole, the relationships between the different sectors…

It is always “contractual” or “legal” problems when it comes to the Politicians and the Elite Civil and Public Service. Where is this coming from only the Attorney General and the D of F who are the Elite?

Is there a Politician around with Balls to deal with this self serving cabal?Everyone above Assistant Principal Officer level in the D of F and Central Bank/Financial Regulator should have been given their P45 after the mess this lot have lorded over for the past 4 years and their total lack of oversight of Regulators during the previous 10 years. Any Private Sector business would have booted them out long ago instead we get leg ups for persons into higher positions who previously were in charge of the mad house. Incompetence pays in Ireland !!!!!


“Any Private Sector business would have booted them out long ago”

Do the banks come under the heading of “any”?

Rory, I imagine yes, but not under the heading “private”.

What passes for meritocracy at some private sector banks is a bit of a joke though.

It is disappointing that this very important thread, which really should have been labelled, ” Regaining Competitiveness” has not attracted as much interest as might have been expected.

There have been some excellent contributions, especially that of Eoghan O’Briain.

A number of points need to be made at this stage.

1. In the name of competitiveness, the new government has set an agenda of hitting lower paid workers, particularly those that do Sunday work.
2. But the new Government has at the same time decided not to touch the salaries, conditions or pensions of PS people earning from €60,000 pa up to €200000.

I can only conclude the following.

A. We now have an upper level civil service that are acting directly contrary to the national interest in the stated primary objective of the country.

B. The upper level civil service are being openly supported in acting contrary to the national interest by the new government.

C. It is clear that in the negotiations with the ECB/EU that the primary objective of the upper level civil service was not the national interest but the protection of their own benefits.

D. Taking a harder line with the bank bondholders is currently in the national interest, but it is not in the interest of the upper level public service. Therefore the country does not take a hard line with the bank bondholders.

E. The effects of this anti-national stance being adopted on behalf of the upper level civil servants will rebound with a vengence not seen in ireland since the 1920’s.

Spose a JLC for this element of the upper-echelon is out of the question? Then again, they don’t do Sundays, do they?

The maximum retirement fund used to be a benchmark for the assistant secretary pay/retirement benefit scale.

Now that it has been halved (deadline for lodging valuations over 2.3m is today incidentally) then perhaps it should be good enough all people for whom this was a benchmark?

@joseph ryan

i don’t think the lack of comments is a lack of interest, more a case of “what can i say?”

No surprise here. Remember how after the AHCPS got to retain the privilege days as annual leave, the Dept. of Finance insisted that Secretary Generals would retain theirs as well, even though they weren’t covered by the implementation body’s ruling?

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