By Ken Foxe (@kenfoxe)

Fine Gael TD John Perry has said the appointment of his wife to a €38,000-a-year role was only intended to 'bridge a gap' and was a temporary measure.

Mr Perry issued a statement in response to intense political pressure after the RTÉ Investigations Unit revealed that he had hired his wife Maria Perry to the role in January of this year.

The former Minister said he had given the job to Maria Perry - who is named in official Oireachtas documents as Marie Mulvey - while he waited for his preferred candidate for the job to become available.

In a statement, Mr Perry said that his former parliamentary assistant had left the job last summer and that his wife had filled the role without pay for the next six months.

He said: 'Having been an integral part of my political career for the past 18 years, Maria was eminently qualified to fulfil the position of Parliamentary Assistant. In light of the growing work load in my office from January 2015 and the volume of work she was doing, I decided to appoint her to the Parliamentary Assistant position to bridge the gap until my preferred candidate for the position became available.'

Mr Perry appointed his wife to the €38,000-a-year position after losing his job as Minister for Small Business in a government reshuffle.

Maria Perry – or Marie Mulvey as she is called in official documents – was hired on January 2 of this year, the RTÉ Investigations Unit has learned.

Mrs Perry was given a job as a parliamentary assistant, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The appointment was made despite the fact that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said giving family members such jobs is ‘not good practice’.

The role is paid on a salary scale of between €38,760 and €49,035 a year, with overtime payments of a further 20 per cent on top of that salary available. Details of what salary is being paid to Mrs Perry were refused by the Houses of the Oireachtas who said that such records were ‘confidential and personal’.

The Fine Gael Press Office originally said that Mr Perry had ‘declined to comment’ to a series of questions submitted by RTÉ.

In a statement, they said: ‘All staff appointments are made at the discretion of particular TDs and Senators. Appointments must satisfy criteria set by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. Remuneration is in line with pay scales determined by the Commission.’

Mr Perry and his wife have been in financial difficulty in recent years and had been sued by Danske Bank over unpaid loans relating to their business and property dealings. In July of last year, the bank registered a court judgment against both Mr Perry and his wife for the repayment of debts of €2.47 million. The registered judgment appeared in Stubb’s Gazette just days after Mr Perry, who is a TD for Sligo-North Leitrim, lost his job as Junior Minister at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Mr Perry had a large property portfolio in the West of Ireland but official Dail records show that it has shrunk considerably over the past number of years. In 2013, the former Minister included ten different properties in his official Oireachtas register of interests, the majority of them in Co Sligo. According to the 2014 register however, Mr Perry now has just five properties, aside from his family home. These include a supermarket in Ballymote, 34 acres of woodland, an apartment, and two constituency offices – one in Ballymote and one in Sligo.

Mr Perry’s take home pay has also suffered since he lost his job as a Junior Minister, and he is now paid a TD’s salary of €87,258 instead of the annual salary of €121,639 he had been paid at the Department of Jobs.

Mr Perry was also entitled to claim significant amounts for travel while a Junior Minister and between March 2011 and July 2014, he was paid €95,722 for domestic mileage. The Sligo politician is now paid the standard Oireachtas rates available for all TDs and is paid an allowance of €4,225 a month to cover travel, accommodation and the other costs – constituency offices, advertising etc – associated with being a politician.