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Ministers back

The Government has defended controversial salaries of more than ?100,000 for 29 members of staff at Irish Water.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton both stressed that "significant jobs mean significant salaries".

They said that it was vital for the economy that Irish Water was effective as it had an "enormous job" to do, handling future revenue of more than ?1bn.

OUTRAGE

But anti-water charge groups expressed outrage that staff including MD John Tierney were paid more than ?100,000.

The row came as it emerged 165 Irish Water workers qualify for bonuses worth 6.5pc of their salary, with 65 more qualifying for an additional 14pc.

Mr Coveney and Mr Bruton refused to defend the bonuses and said that the Government did not consider the economic situation as justifying any such benefits for workers at semi-state companies.

But Mr Coveney added: "This is a company set up to do an enormous job. It is the newest semi-State in Ireland and will have a income of ?1bn a year.

"It is there to get better value for money in terms of how we deliver water, to plug the leaks and provide a better service."

The Cork TD also said that in every business, the salary paid reflects the job involved.

"If you look across local authorities in Ireland, there are 34 local authorities all providing water services, all with senior management on significant salaries because they are doing significant jobs," he added.

"It makes sense when you are setting up the company that you put incentives in place (to make sure) targets set are met.

"We need to make sure that is done efficiently and effectively. Clearly, the Government has indicated that our view for all of our commercial State bodies is that this is not a period where bonuses should be paid.

AUTHORITY

"However, the responsibility lies with boards and they have their authority. It is they who must decide these issues.

"The Minister for Public Reform (Brendan Howlin) has written to all the boards regarding what is the Government's desired approach. They must be accountable."

hnews@herald.ie