The Taoiseach has said the Government is legally obliged to restore pay for top public servants to pre-austerity levels.

Micheál Martin said that 90% of those receiving the increases in pay were doctors and consultants.

Yesterday, it emerged that top public servants, including medical consultants, CEOs of State bodies, certain members of the judiciary and senior civil servants, are to have their pay restored to pre-austerity levels on 1 July.

Financial Emergency (FEMPI) legislation was used to cut the pay of public servants as part of the austerity measures introduced following the financial crash of 2008.

Salary rates up to €150,000, which account for 99% of the public service, have been fully restored.

Under the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act, salaries for those earning above €150,000 are due to be restored by 1 July.

Speaking on a visit to a healthcare facility in Co Mayo this morning, Mr Martin confirmed the measure was part of the restoration of the FEMPI cuts and that this was something that was supported by Sinn Féin and the trade unions

"There's no circumventing of legal obligations on Government to fulfil by law what Government has to do," he said.

Earlier, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said pay rises being restored to senior civil servants is because of a law in 2017 that would reverse the freeze.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he also said most of those who will get the pay rises are hospital consultants.

"The facts are this. During the recession ten years ago, during that awful period of austerity that we all remember very well, all public servants had their pay cut, and those public servants who earned the most had their pay cut at the deepest and for longest,"he said.

Mr Varadkar said the legal advice was that in order to reverse the pay cuts again, a new law would be required.

"We had to look at our options because we knew this would be controversial and we knew that it wasn't coming at the best time, although there never is a good time to do these things. So, we did look at the options," he said.

"The options were passing a new law to further delay pay restoration for this group of people and the advice was very clear from that legislation that was used to cut the pay of public servants was a financial emergency provision.

"There is no longer a financial emergency. We've record levels of employment and public service. Public finances are in good order.

"And we would have to go into court and make the argument that it was right to fully reverse the pay cuts for a school principal or somebody working in the passport office or a garda inspector, but it was okay to single out doctors and that wouldn't be right."

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty said that the restoration of pay for top public servants will be considered unfair by other public sector workers.

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Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Doherty said: "People are waking up and they are looking at what they would perceive as the unfairness here, because they're seeing a Government that's refusing to act for them.

"They're seeing a Government that's refusing to act for low and middle income earners and then they see this headline in terms of pay restoration and that's the problem.

"Where we would act is actually ensuring that workers and families and low and middle incomes are protected.

"We've long called for pay restoration for consultants, but we recognise what is in the media this morning goes far beyond consultants, although it makes up a large part of it.

"I think for a lot of public sector workers, including those on the frontline, the nurses and those healthcare professionals that were on the frontline during the pandemic, this will really stick in their craw because they're still waiting for the €1,000 that was promised a year ago."

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said that Ireland is in another financial emergency and that people could not accept an excess of €60 million a year being paid now and years into the future.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, he said that this was a political choice being made by the Government on the same day that they were saying to low- and middle-income workers suffering from cost of living or housing crises that they had to wait until the Budget.