East Cork Sinn Fein TD Baulked At ‘Average Industrial Wage’ Imposed By Leadership

Ed Moloney points in the direction of more rumblings in East Cork Sinn Fein. Ed Moloney Blogs @ The Broken Elbow.
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.

Sinn Fein TD for East Cork, Sandra McLellan at Leinster house on Kildare Street, Dublin.

‘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.


  1. Don't know the ins-and-outs of this woman's story but that does not sound unreasonable to me. I suppose it depends on whether it's 34k after or before tax but it's not massive money by any stretch of the imagination. How do the like of McGuinness et al afford the houses their sitting in on that kind of money? Strange one

  2. 'Mrs McLellan warns that the policy could prevent well-paid professionals from standing for election.'

    If S.F. was a genuine socialist party these careerist types would be the last candidates they'd be trying to attract.

  3. Sean Bres

    it really is not massive money. The reality is once your wage exceeds 29,000 you are on 40% tax here. Many people on 31,000 a year are effectively on 18k ... or dole-ite survival rate for a family.

    I was going to pen to the effect that personal ambition would do to the SF leadership what its collective personal ambition did to the IRA. But, 34k is hardly worth getting out of bed for, literally.

  4. Being honest Larry I thought as much. I'd be interested to know what 34k after tax equates to in sterling. While of course it's hardly to be sniffed at it's not as though it's a mountain of cash either. I actually thought that was quite a human story. Michael, New Sinn Fein are not a socialist party but an establishment party, this is not my opinion but something they readily admit to. They have determined on working within the existing establishment to bring about political change and thus everything depends on continuing electoral growth. For electoral growth you need to have electoral appeal, something they seem to have mastered reasonably well given where the party is coming from. It's complex but if you recall the unelectable, though genuine, Michael Foot and how Labour became New Labour after even Neil Kinnock could not oust the Tories, we can see that electoralism means that the need for electoral appeal takes precedent over all else - without it participation in the establishment is a waste of time. British Labour in its current guise is once again finding the very same thing happening to it. It raises more questions about the worth of participating in the system than it does about anything else, that would be the real issue here to my mind, not your doll's need for a haircut or for make-up

  5. Sean/Larry

    34k in Euro converted to pounds is 24k nothing to be sniffed at, so Larr,y I really cannot get your math that it is hardly getting out of bed for? It would do me lovely.

    I found this article so funny I practically have been laughing at it all day long, especially when Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan talked about: 34k Euro being around 24k sterling being the average industrial wage, where in the world? here I think not!

    Everyone knows this whole average wage is pure illusionary nonsense, in that they base there calculation on the highest earnings in any particular sector, with the majority of the lowest earners and do a simple average which is not representative of "real life after tax wages". It is pure fabrication of reality of the "haves" and "have nots" in its simplest form.

    Another part I laughed at was that by having this modest industrial wage that "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."

    Sure most of them are double jobbing anyway, they normally own a farm, estate agency, business interests anyway ffs. They are the original double jobbers, christ the night and it they are not, they probable got into politics to get to that position.

    If ever careerist political speak was so basically elitist, the above statement hits the nail on the head. I thought people in so called democracy elected people to represent them and make decisions on their behalf, for betterment of society, no?

    Most politicans in my opinion are a bunch of narcissistic driven, confidence tricksters, parasitic leeches, with absolutely no moralistic of ethical consideration other than whats in it for ME.

    On the funny side I hear those that left S/F in cork, have now renamed themselves "Offical Sinn Fein" just imagine that, lol

  6. Sean, I completely agree, I remember Foot and Kinnock quite well, I was a member of Militant in those years.

    I was of course being cynical when I mentioned S.F. and socialism in the same phrase :)