Is Mitchell O’Con­nor worth it, Leo?

And I mean the gaffes – not the €16k pay hike

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

Mary Mitchell O’Con­nor seemed to­tally un­aware that she was light­ing the fuse to an­other Govern­ment cri­sis when she chided the Taoiseach about equal pay last week.

Her re­sponse when she was asked why she is paid €16,000 a year less than the other two ‘su­per’ ju­nior min­is­ters who sit at Cab­i­net was al­most cer­tainly un­wit­ting and not ma­li­cious.

Her ‘ev­ery­one who does the same job de­serves the same pay’ stance also breached col­lec­tive Govern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity on equal pay for teach­ers. But it was prob­a­bly just an­other silly mis­take by an ac­ci­dent-prone min­is­ter.

It also raises a se­ri­ous ques­tion: will Leo Varad­kar give Mitchell O’Con­nor an­other fool’s par­don?

Her latest gaffe threat­ens the Bud­get cal­cu­la­tions, por­tends in­dus­trial ac­tion in schools and prom­ises more chaos in Govern­ment Build­ings.

It is also fur­ther ev­i­dence that Mitchell O’Con­nor was de­moted on merit – on how she per­formed, or rather didn’t, as Min­is­ter for Jobs and En­ter­prise. But when the Taoiseach told her she was be­ing de­moted, she kicked up such a fuss that he granted her an­other meet­ing that de­layed his an­nounce­ment to the Dáil of his min­is­ters. r Varad­kar clearly didn’t know that she would not be en­ti­tled to the statu­tory €16,000-a-year pay rise when the face-saving deal saw her ap­pointed as a su­per ju­nior min­is­ter. It would take a spe­cial Act of the Oireach­tas to in­crease her salary – and Fianna Fáil would kill the Bill.

Still, Ms Mitchell O’Con­nor seemed con­tent to forego the money and take the po­si­tion for its sta­tus, perks and priv­i­leges. But her ap­par­ently un­wit­ting re­marks last week em­bold­ened the teach­ers’ unions and Fianna Fáil ex­ploited the Taoiseach’s predica­ment.

Yet Ms Mitchell O’Con­nor be­came an overnight hero­ine among her former teacher col­leagues and an icon for equal pay – while still serv­ing in a govern­ment.

She knows that newly qual­i­fied teach­ers only have to re­main on the lower pay rates for around two years be­fore join­ing the in­cre­men­tal up­wardly slid­ing pay scale.

And she should know that dur­ing pub­lic pay talks ear­lier this year Paschal Dono­hoe of­fered to fix the anom­aly: it will cost €209mil­lion a year but es­tab­lished teach­ers would need to sac­ri­fice their pay rises to find the money.

Teach­ers clearly want to help their newly qual­i­fied col­leagues but not as much as they want their own pay rises re­stored.

Last week, the teach­ers’ unions were quot­ing Mitchell O’Con­nor’s plea for equal pay and her words en­cour­aged an­other ju­nior min­is­ter to call for equal pay for teach­ers.

‘She’s ac­tu­ally a vic­tim of sex­ism in the work­place,’ said Fianna Fáil’s ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Thomas Byrne.

‘Why is she the one that had to take the zero pay when the men are get­ting the full pay?’

But she ac­tu­ally vol­un­teered to forego wages to gain sta­tus, perks and priv­i­leges. Clearly Mitchell O’Con­nor and the Taoiseach see her ap­point­ment as the L’Oreal op­tion – be­cause she’s worth it!

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