President Michael D. Higgins has donated 23.5 percent of his salary to Ireland since 2011.
Many heads of state wouldn’t dream of foregoing a portion of their paycheck — and yet Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins recently announced not just that he will do so, but that he will continue to do so for the next several years.
This week, the Irish president announced that he would continue taking a customary pay cut for the rest of his time in office. Since 2011, Higgins has donated 23.5 percent of his salary to the state, and donates his pension payments to the state as well. Currently, Higgins takes home around $270,350 USD each year — a little over half what the U.S. president earns over the same time period.
“The situation remained unchanged, and there was no plan to roll back on this voluntary donation,” a spokesperson told The Irish Times.
Higgins’ voluntary pay cut comes in an effort to restore the public service sector pay cuts brought on by the recent financial crisis, and follows in the footsteps of former president Mary McAleese, who took equal pay cuts when the financial crisis hit. This cut will apply to future presidents as well, as the Irish government has written Higgins’ donation into law.
Of course, much of this is symbolic — a gesture to the Irish people still reeling from crisis. While the president of Ireland is the supreme commander of the Irish Defence Force and considered to be head of state, the presidency is an honorary position with little to no actual power — similar to the Queen of England.
The person with actual power in Ireland is the prime minister, currently Enda Kenny. He took a pay cut when he took office as well, and earns around $201,038 USD each year.