I wonder if this article in The Daily Mail of June 2012 is one of the unspoken factors in the row that has erupted in the Sinn Fein organisation in East Cork, where one activist has been expelled and another suspended for a year? Hat-tip to SB for this.
‘Sinn Féin barely leave me enough wages for make-up’: TD Sandra McLellan says her party’s pay policy could deter candidates
By JOHN LEE FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 18:39 EST, 9 June 2012 | UPDATED: 18:40 EST, 9 June 2012
Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan has questioned the party’s policy of only paying its TDs €34,000 a year while taking the rest of their salary for the party’s use.
In an exclusive interview, Mrs McLellan warns that the policy could prevent well-paid professionals from standing for election.
And the TD for Cork East adds that she struggles to afford make-up and hairdos – which she believes are important for a woman in politics.
‘I’m finding it tough,’ she admitted.
Money: Sandra McLellan says the pay policy will limit SF’s gene pool
Her comments come amid reports from senior party sources that there are growing rumblings within Sinn Féin about the policy, under which most of a TD’s €92,672 salary is taken by the party.
Each TD is left with €34,000 a year, the average industrial wage.
However, some TDs have complained that certain SF stalwarts are supported by the party in other ways, and never appear to have to put their hands in their pockets to cover the incidental expenses connected with being a politician.
She has found that the move from Cork County Council to the Dáil (to which she was elected in 2011) is taking more money out of her pocket.
‘As a woman… I know appearances are important when you’re sitting in the Dáil,’ she said.
‘You know you have to maybe get your hair done a bit more often, maybe put a bit more into make-up and a bit more into clothing than you would normally put. From that side of it, it can be expensive.
‘People might say “Oh God, they’re worried about the hair, they’re worried about the make-up,” but you are representing a party. And when you are representing a party you want to look well.’
The Irish Mail on Sunday asked Mrs McLellan if she was finding it difficult to survive the recession.
‘I manage away. It’s the average industrial wage. I knew that that’s what I was going to be getting before I took up the position,’ she said. ‘And I suppose that’s my wages and that’s it. I’m finding it tough the same as everybody else is, but I’m not any worse off than I was before I became a politician.’
Mrs McLellan, from Youghal, is a married mother of three children. She has a mortgage, a daughter in university and her husband has also been made redundant.
She was elected to Youghal Town Council in 2004 and became the first Sinn Fein Mayor of Youghal in 2009. In the same year, she was elected to Cork County Council.
‘My youngest is 14, but I have one in university and a son who is working,’ she said. ‘It’s a little more difficult, but the same as everybody else. I mean, we’re in a recession, we all have to tighten our belts. And we have to lead by example as well.’
Mrs McLellan has not yet spoken to party chiefs about revising the policy, but says she intends to do so before the next election.
‘No, I haven’t. Absolutely, seriously, never, it hasn’t come up. I don’t know, maybe if others are finding it difficult it may be something that could be looked at in the future.
‘It just hasn’t arisen at any party meetings. You might think I’m lying to you, maybe I’m newer on the block, but it’s not something that I raised.’
Mrs McLellan believes the party’s senior TDs Gerry Adams, Martin Ferris and Mary Lou McDonald might listen to her plea if they looked at the electoral ramifications of the average industrial wage policy.
‘It might limit attracting a person who is highly paid to run as a politician for a party if they have commitments and if they don’t want to give up their well-paid job. It might limit your gene pool. That’s something that I have thought about,’ she said.
‘I know if I was a very well paid professional I wouldn’t be in a position to say “I want to throw my hat at that, I’m going to live on the average industrial wage and the rest of the family have to live on it as well.”’
However, the TD doesn’t want to sound as if she is moaning.
‘While things are tight, and people think I have lots of money (and I don’t), you manage. I knew what I was getting into and I got into it.’
Ms McLellan also says that she often has to turn down needy causes through a lack of funds.
‘We do get the same requests for donations to sporting organisation and charities that other politicians get,’ she said. ‘I know in the overall scheme of things people probably don’t want to hear that side of it, but it is real as well.’
‘I get to take my expenses out of the expenses’
Sandra McLellan gives a detailed account of what Sinn Féin does with the money it takes from its TDs’ salaries.
She also explains that she does not even get access to all her monthly expenses – the party also takes a portion of the €4,982 a month she is reimbursed for expenses claims. The money goes towards paying party staff, something other parties in the Dáil don’t believe is fair.
A TD is paid €92,672 a year but a Sinn Féin TD is only allowed to take home €34,000 – the average industrial wage – and the rest goes to party coffers.
‘You obviously allow for your expenses. I don’t have to pay for my hotel out of that, and I don’t have to pay for my diesel out of that,’ she said.
‘I get all that. What I normally do is keep my receipts and I have a card that I pay my hotel out of,’ said the Cork East TD.
‘Or if I have to get a train I have my card or I keep receipts for diesel and I tot it up and I’ll reimburse myself for that.
‘I’m not out of pocket for any of that.’
‘The rest of the money goes into paying staff within the party,’ she said.
Miss McLellan is paid a fixed allowance for accommodation and travel to and from Cork, and vouched expenses as well. This has totalled €4,982 per month this year.
But for the first time she reveals that Sinn Féin also takes a portion of their TDs’ expenses claim payments too.
‘I take my average industrial wage out of the Dáil salary but you get your wages paid in and you get your expenses paid on a monthly basis. I take my salary and then out of that [total] I take my expenses out as well.
‘So it’s not €34,000 to pay your hotel and your diesel and your train. We’re allowed our overnights and what have you.’
But the expenses are also rifled by the party.
‘I don’t get to keep all the expenses either, but I get to take my expenses out of the expenses, if that makes sense.’
It was put to Deputy McLellan that she must also have to buy sandwiches for constituents out of her own money.
‘Generally speaking for people I had up to the Dáil I actually paid out of my own pocket, out of my actual wages, because it wasn’t a lot of money at the time each few people that I had up. I just went to the counter and paid it out of my purse.’
She is considering raising the issue at a meeting with party chiefs.
‘It isn’t something that has come up for discussion at any party meeting that I’ve been at. Look, it might be something that might come up in the future when people think about the next election,’ she said.