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Political adviser pay is linked to pay of senior grades in the Civil Service

Most advisers aren’t on highest levels of Civil Service pay and they have none of the job stability of a civil servant

Government special advisers, who can be recruited either from the private sector or from within the public system, are essentially contractors rather than full-time civil servants.

If the government falls or its term ends, or if the minister who appointed them leaves office, their employment in that role ends.

Most special advisers are paid salaries based at the level of principal officer or assistant principal officer, which are relatively senior grades, but not at the highest level in the Civil Service.

A small number of very senior advisers are linked to higher Civil Service posts. The top advisers to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Brian Murphy and Deirdre Gillane respectively, have grades equivalent to deputy secretaries in Government departments.


They are on salaries of €185,350 and €195,137 respectively, although Department of Public Expenditure documents indicate that they are returning a portion of these payments to the State.

Latest figures from the Department of Public Expenditure show that assistant principals earn between €75,000 and €104,000, while principal officers earn between €98,000 and €130,000.

Individual advisers may be at different points on these pay scales.

According to information supplied in answers to parliamentary questions, the salary shown reflects the rate at time of appointment, which, in most cases, was December 2022, as all advisers were required to be formally reappointed when the leadership of the Government changed at that time.

Most salaries will have increased since, with public sector pay increases, and some will also have benefited from increments, the system of increasing public service salaries the longer a person remains in the job. If the public sector pay deal is approved, they can look forward to further pay increases this year.

When the Government ends or if the minister who appointed them leaves office, special advisers who were appointed from within the public service, or who came on secondment from elsewhere, can return to their old positions.

Those who were recruited from the private sector find themselves out of work if they are not in a position to return to their pre-government roles.

However, there is a financial cushion in place.

Such ministerial personal staff, employed on temporary contracts, are entitled to severance or ex gratia payments, including statutory redundancy, when such contracts are terminated.

Figures released by the Department of Agriculture to Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy show, for example, that in 2020 a special adviser received more than €101,000, comprising €85,358 in severance and €15,876 in redundancy.

Another received more than €83,600 in total after leaving a special adviser post.