Secretary General’s €81,000 pay hike contrasted to government’s treatment of Student Nurses


Sinn Féin TD for Cavan Monaghan, Matt Carthy, slammed the government and the Minister for Health for their continued failure to support student nurses and midwives.  He accused government of showing a ‘lack of respect’ to the student nurses who he described as ‘the frontline of the frontline’ and he contrasted their treatment with that of the new Secretary General of the Department of Health who is in line to receive an €81,000 per annum pay hike.


The Cavan Monaghan TD was speaking during a Dáil debate on a Sinn Féin Motion that called for student healthcare workers to be paid during their clinical placements.


Teachta Carthy told the Dáil:


“The strength of our response to Covid-19 has been the concept of solidarity.


“It is a concept we have seen in every single community across this country – but it is a concept that appears alien to this government.


“We are in a situation now where Sinn Féin have had to bring a motion before this House for the second time, to demand and plea that student nurses and midwives be paid for the work that they do.


“That we have to discuss this motion at all is incredibly disappointing.  That we should be discussing it in a week when government are defending their decision to increase the salary of the Secretary General of the Department of Health to €292,000 per annum shows just how perverse government thinking truly is.


“That marks an increase of €81,000.  It is more than frontline workers get paid in totality.


“If we compare that with the offer apparently being made to student nurses of €100 per week for the work they do, it does not stand up to scrutiny.


“After all the testimonies we have heard in recent months, after all the realities that they have spelt out to us – €100 per week is insulting, patronising, and sums up this government.


“It is no wonder that our newly qualified nurses are found in every corner of the world, why they are treasured by almost every other health service in the world.  It boils down to lack of respect.


“The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, defended the proposed increase in Robert Watt’s salary by €81,000 to €292,000 per annum.  His logic is incredibly interesting.  He says that this pay hike is in recognition of the ‘unique challenges and significant responsibilities’ attached to this role.


“That spells and sets it out in the clearest possible terms. This Government, the Minister and the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party recognise the unique challenges and very significant responsibilities of bureaucrats and officials but do not recognise the unique challenges and significant responsibilities that have been undertaken by the front line of the front line, our student nurses and midwives.


“I commend the motion to the House, I commend Deputy David Cullinane on tabling it and I beg and plead with every Member of the House to stand by those who have stood by us”.


After the debate Teachta Carthy said:


“The Dáil adopted the Sinn Féin motion on student nurse and midwife pay.  This was, no doubt, due to the embarrassment of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs who voted against a similar motion late last year.


“That motion must now be acted on by Government. The Minister should not delay.


“The motion was clear – the Minister should make sure that 4th year interns are now paid at the healthcare assistant rate.  He must ensure that students whose placements are cancelled now or in the future as a result of the pandemic can work as healthcare assistants, if they want to.


“The second review must be signed off on this week and expedited.


“The Minister should also immediately engage and negotiate with healthcare unions to put in place a fair and reasonable system of allowances going forward.


“The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, has excused himself from this debate. That is unacceptable.


“Minister Harris should step up to the mark and ensure fair treatment for students and give them clarity about the impact on their clinical placements.


“It is up to him and the Minister for Health to ensure that they get fair treatment, and that there are no delays to their academic progression because of the decision to suspend placements.”


Secretary General’s €81,000 pay hike contrasted to government’s treatment of Student Nurses
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