Tuesday, October 13, 2009

John’s golden parachute

John’s golden parachute

By Mary Regan

Thursday, October 08, 2009

John O’Donoghue: The outgoing Ceann Comhairle will hold on to a number of perks in retirement.

JOHN O’DONOGHUE will receive a golden parachute package of more than €110,000 over the next two years on top of his €106,500 TD salary to cushion the humiliating blow of being forced from the Ceann Comhairle’s chair to the Dáil back benches.

The Kerry South TD will also hold on to a number of perks, including €5,000 a year unvouched expenses, €8,000 a year for travel around his constituency, €126 a night to stay in Dublin during the Dáil week and a pension of €67,000 a year once he retires from politics.

As Mr O’Donoghue stayed away from the Dáil yesterday requesting "time and space" his dramatic resignation was the centre of a number of rows between the Government and the opposition.

The Labour Party accused Brian Lenihan of "talking through his hat" after the Finance Minister said it wasn’t "right or proper" for the party to put down a motion of no confidence in the Ceann Comhairle ahead of a planned meeting in which he had promised to explain his controversial expenses claims.

"You wouldn’t treat a member of a trade union like that, or a worker, or there would be a general strike," said Mr Lenihan, who is promising a new, more transparent expenses regime for TDs.

Labour also came under attack from Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, who accused party leader Eamon Gilmore of political opportunism, claiming he "wanted to be seen as the man who brought down John O’Donoghue".

"He might get some momentary plaudits, but in the long run it will be seen for what it is and it’s pretty shabby."

Taoiseach Brian Cowen criticised those who, he said, "can’t step back from dancing on the grave" after Fine Gael and Sinn Féin said Mr O’Donoghue should step down immediately instead of after the weekend.

Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter accused Mr O’Donoghue of attempting to secure "a golden handshake of a Dáil seat in the next election" by holding on to his position until after the crucial Green Party conference at the weekend, which could see the Government fall.

Mr Cowen told the Dáil it was "less than seemly to haggle over the arrangements for his early resignation".

The Taoiseach will consult informally with other party leaders over the coming days in an effort to reach a unanimous decision on who should replace Mr O’Donoghue as Ceann Comhairle.

Mr O’Donoghue asked Leas Ceann Comhairle Brendan Howlin to oversee proceedings until he takes to the chair one last time to deliver an unprecedented resignation speech next Tuesday. When he does so, he will lose his State car and the €112,504 salary paid to the Ceann Comhairle on top of their TD wage. The compensation will be a step down payment of €112,504 over two years, after which he will get just under half of his ministerial pension, €25,313, on top of his salary until he retires, when the full pension will be paid.

Mr O’Donoghue came under criticism in recent weeks for employing 10 staff, compared to his predecessor, who had three.

A spokesperson said last night that eight of these are civil servants and will be moved to other departments. The fate of the other two, including his political adviser, is not yet decided.

The Ceann Comhairle’s fellow Kerryman Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O’Sullivan said Mr O’Donoghue "has been extremely unfairly treated by the media in recent weeks".

He told the Seanad: "Staff in Leinster House have more to do than answer all journalists who, on a lazy days when they can find nothing better to do, delve into the individual or collective expenses of members."

Mr O’Donoghue’s cousin, Fianna Fáil Kerry county councillor Michael O’Shea, said: "He has done no wrong. I was speaking to him last Saturday and he assured me he had done no wrong."

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, October 08, 2009

It appears as though Ireland takes very good care of their politicians during their time in office and in retirement. The Celtic Tiger may have disappeared for the people of Ireland but not for the politicians. Some things are not only universal, but they never change.

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