PRESIDENT Higgins has denied a media report that he topped up the salary of a Skibbereen native who is his executive assistant, and said he was hurt for him.
The president had refused to disclose, when questioned by his rivals in the presidential campaign, how he spends his €317,000 Áras allowance or if it was used to pay Kevin McCarthy’s wages of €49,000.
The issue was first brought up last week by Fianna Fail TD Marc Mac Sharry at the -Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, which scrutinises spending at the Office of the President.
Mr McCarthy was a driver for President Higgins during his 2011 campaign and went on to be appointed as a member of staff on the day of his inauguration. That was despite the fact that no specific funding was available from the wages budget to pay the Skibbereen man’s salary.
The Irish Mail on Sunday reported last weekend that the matter was resolved when the money was diverted from elsewhere in the Áras budget.
The Áras allowance, now under question, is typically used to provide hospitality for visitors to the Áras, for State dinners, and the like.
President Higgins has since said: ‘One comment that suggested that I had used it to top up an employee’s salary is just simply wrong — it is not true. In the month of November we will make a full return on every euro spent.
‘I found the suggestion it was used for anything other than the act specified an absolutely outrageous suggestion. I really was hurt for a member of my staff who was unfairly named and unfairly treated at the suggestion he benefited in some way.’
Sinn Fein’s candidate, Coolea’s Liadh Ni Riada said: ‘Citizens deserve and expect transparency in how their money is spent and this is something I would ensure if elected.’
Former driver Mr McCarthy was singled out for praise by the President shortly after his last campaign, when he said: ‘I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Kevin McCarthy.’