Micheál Martin crisis: NOTHING going right for Ireland’s new leader, says top ex-diplomat

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The rule change, which will probably be ratified prior to the summer recess, means three junior ministers, rather than two, will now receive an extra £14,842 (€16,288) on top of their basic salaries of £113,393 (€124,439). However, the decision, coming as the world reels from the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, has attracted widespread criticism, with Labour finance spokesman Ged Nash branding Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar were “absolutely tone-deaf to the day-to-day needs of families across the country”. .

Ray Bassett, by Ireland’s former ambassador to the Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, told Express.co.uk: “It seems nothing is going right for Martin.

“Politicians often live in a parallel universe.

“Passing this special legislation, almost emergency legislation, to increase the salary of a minor government figure who already receives €124,439 per annum, sends out all the wrong signals at a time when Ireland is facing an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.”

Mr Bassett said the Irish Constitution limited the number of cabinet ministers to a maximum of 15 – but added that a succession of governments had sought to circumvent the restriction.

He added: “Politicians create extra posts for their party supporters in order to keep the dissatisfaction levels down.

“It has nothing to do with the common good.

“The politicians then attack other groups for pursuing self-interest.

“It means that the politicians lose their moral authority.

“Sometimes they don’t seem to realise how destructive this tendency is with their public standing.”

Mr Martin replaced Leo Varadkar last month – and Mr Bassett suggested he had enjoyed a less than auspicious start, with other problems besides the allowances wrangle.

He said: “The new Irish government, under Micheál Martin, seems to be particularly accident prone, or as Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald described it as ‘cack-handed’.

“Earlier this week, the Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Leo Varadkar openly criticised the government over a lack of clarity on foreign travel.

“It had been very badly handled.”

Nor were his problems limited to the domestic arena, Mr Bassett said.

He explained: “It also comes after Ireland got a very poor deal at the EU Summit.

“Ireland will be the second largest net contributor on a per capita basis to the COVID-19 fund after Luxembourg and higher than Germany.”

Mr Martin was dealt a further blow after Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd lost out to Independent TD Catherine Connolly for the role of leas Ceann-Comhairle, or chair of Ireland’s legislature, the Dail – a role equivalent to the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Tee Taoiseach congratulated Ms Connolly, adding: “It is a secret ballot and people took that decision but I am disappointed for Fergus.

“He is a very experienced parliamentarian and I wish Catherine the very best of luck.”

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