Taoiseach Brian Cowen with his highest-paid special adviser, Joe Lennon (right), who receives €188,640 a year

Special advisers to Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are paid more than the UK prime minister David Cameron, new figures reveal.

Joe Lennon and Peter Clinch, who are among five special advisers hired by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, are paid €188,640 and €181,243, respectively. Donall Geoghegan, who advises John Gormley and the other six Green Party TDs, is on €168,000 a year.

By contrast, David Cameron is paid £142,500, the equivalent of €167,128 a year.

The total paybill for more than 40 special advisers hired by government ministers comes to almost €5m a year. The figures were revealed in the Dáil the week before the Christmas break.

In addition to these advisers, ministers have hired a further 40 personal assistants and secretaries, with average salaries of €50,000 a year. This brings the state-funded paybill to just under €7m a year for the 80 recruited special government advisers, personal assistants and secretaries.

A year before he became Taoiseach, when he was Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen warned his cabinet colleagues against going outside the civil service to recruit such special advisers. Cowen said it was the job of civil servants to help the government run the country and warned that hired help should be kept to a minimum.

However, Cowen now has five such advisers as well as one more attached to government chief whip John Curran. He also has three press advisers, who are all on salaries of well in excess of €100,000 a year.

In addition, the Taoiseach has six personal assistants and two personal secretaries while Curran has one personal secretary and two personal assistants. This comes to a total of 21 backroom staff in the Taoiseach's office with a total paybill of just under €2m a year.

Most other advisers are paid around €100,000 a year while those not in the public service pension scheme also receive an additional pension contribution of 11% of salary towards a private pension.

The downside for the special advisers in particular is that their employment is dependent on their minister remaining in power, something which is likely to change by spring.