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Unannounced special advisers push total salaries towards €6 million

By Conor O’Carroll

The Department of Education has confirmed to Village Magazine that three as-yet-unannounced special advisers are employed at the department.

Áine Doyle and Eoin Murphy are employed as special advisers to Minister of Education, Norma Foley TD, while Diane O’Gorman is employed as a special adviser to Minister of State, Josepha Madigan TD, a department spokesperson said.

None of these appointments have been publicly notified in Iris Oifigiúil, or through the release of the statutory instrument confirming their appointment.

They also don’t appear on the government’s list of special advisers.

No explanation was given for why the advisers, which are required to be officially reappointed following the rotation of Taoiseach last December, have not been made public yet.

Another special adviser appointed in April has also yet to see any official announcement.

Eoin Delaney, special adviser to the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Seán Fleming TD, was appointed on April 10th and given a salary of almost €75,000.

Despite the lack of public announcement, Delaney appears to have begun advising, accompanying Fleming on a visit to Killeshin National School in Laois a few days after he was appointed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said, “Mr Delaney’s appointment has progressed through the standard process as required by [Section 11(1) of the Public Service Management Act (1997) and the Ministerial Appointments for the 33rd Dáil guidelines]”.

“The order for his appointment has been finalised and will now proceed for official approval and publication”, they continued.

Last month, following the announcement of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s eighth special adviser, Village reported that a substantial delay often exists between appointment and official announcement.

This trend continued recently, when two more announcements were made, confirming special advisers for Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris TD and Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD. 

Official notice of these appointments was provided, however, in the case of the Department of Further and Higher Education, no statutory instrument (and name of the appointee) has followed.

Over six weeks have elapsed since the official notice in the July 28th edition of Iris Oifigiúil.

No explanation was given for this delay by a department spokesperson, stating that “it is expected that the relevant Statutory Instrument will be finalised shortly”.

As for the Department of Finance, the statutory instrument was released, showing that Stephen Foley, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill’s new adviser, was appointed on 13 March 2023 and announced 151 days later.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance said that “there was an administrative oversight within the Department of Finance HR” that led to the delay. They claimed that “HR was not aware a separate statutory instrument was required for the specific individual to be named”.

These new appointments, along with those from the Department of Education, bring the total number of special advisers to 60.

It is also unknown how much the new appointees will earn, though the current average salary for special advisers stands at over €100,000.

Following queries made by Village Magazine in July as to why three special advisers – Patrick Cluskey, Fiach Kelly, and Jim D’Arcy – had not been added to the official government list, a spokesperson committed to updating the list to reflect the uncovered appointments.

At the time of writing, however, the list has still not been updated and is now also missing a further six special adviser appointments.

The salaries of these nine appointments are likely to push the total cost towards €6 million annually, though the true figure won’t be revealed until the government updates their list.

The current rules surrounding special advisers stipulate that Ministers, other than the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and party leaders, may not appoint more than two special advisers.

The appointment of Simon Harris’ new adviser brings every government minister to the maximum of two special advisers.

The rules also state that Ministers of State may only appoint one special adviser, though appointing two is permitted provided that they regularly attend meetings of the Government.

Just two Ministers of State, Hildegarde Naughton TD (Department of the Taoiseach – Chief Whip) and Pippa Hackett TD (Department of Agriculture) have appointed two special advisers, with ten others settling for just one.