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Clare woman Colette Sexton is among the special advisers to Government ministers in Ireland pocketing a combined €3m.

Mullagh native Colette has been a special adviser to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (FF) since August. Prior to this she worked as a news correspondent with The Sunday Business Post, a political correspondent with The Times Ireland and as an associate director with the public affairs division of Edelman.

She holds a first class honours BA in History, Politics, Sociology and Social Studies from University of Limerick and a first class honours MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Combined yearly earnings relating to 23 media and policy advisers will top €2m, with eight of these appointees on salaries of over €100,000, according to figures first reported by The Irish Examiner on Friday.

Members of the Dáil appointed as ministers and ministers of State may make a number of personal appointments to support them with their enhanced workload, under the latest guidelines for the Appointments for the 33rd Dáil from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform issued in August. Within the staffing limits indicated in the guidelines, a minister, may appoint two special advisers.

In September, the Government announced that an unprecedented amount of special advisers to deal with media and guide policy decisions were to be hired. In total, the Government has taken on 64 special advisers which will cost the taxpayer more than €3m a year. The pay scale for advisers starts at €87,325 and goes up to €101,114 excluding pension and other entitlements. However, salaries above this have been sanctioned and, in the past, granted when specific cases were made.

Sexton is earning €94,487 for her role as a special adviser to Minister Donnelly along with former Sunday Business Post health correspondent Susan Mitchell.

Eight special advisers are on the maximum fee of €101,114 per annum. This includes former journalists Chris Donoghue, Susan Mitchell and Paul Melia plus Deborah Sweeney and Ed Brophy who advise Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe (FG), Paul Kenny who was appointed by Minister for Transport and Climate Change, Eamon Ryan (GP), Kevin Barrett the adviser to Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath (FF) and Pauric McPhillip who works for Minister for Social Protection, Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys (FG).

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