Pension pot for senior ministers to reach €70m
Our politicians outdo disgraced bankers in State payments grab
By DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter Sunday April 25 2010
FOLLOWING the controversy surrounding Richie Boucher's pension top-up, figures obtained by the Sunday Independent reveal that the pension fund for senior ministers is set to top €70m of taxpayers' money,
The Government reduced the ministerial pensions for sitting TDs by 25 per cent last year. And after the next general election, a sitting TD will not be allowed to also pick up a ministerial pension.
But despite these changes, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his ministers -- many of whom have been in the Cabinet for 13 years -- are still guaranteed multi-million euro pension pots when they leave office. Given his length of service, Mr Cowen's taxpayer-funded pension is now worth more than €7m, according to actuarial calculations on his salary package. All members of the Cabinet, past and present, receive defined-benefit pensions linked not to their final salary but to the current occupant of the most senior cabinet position they attained.
Since 2007, the Taoiseach's salary has been reduced twice. But as one of those reductions was voluntary, his pension's worth was not affected. However, the €57,000 pay cut he took last December will impact on his package. Health Minister Mary Harney has a pension valued at more than €4.5m because she has been in the Cabinet since 1997; and as she held the title of Tanaiste for more than three years, her pension will be based on the Tanaiste's salary.
Dermot Ahern and Micheal Martin, also in Cabinet since 1997, have pensions worth between €3.5m and €3.8m. Other ministers -- such as Brian Lenihan, Martin Cullen, Mary Hanafin and the two Green ministers John Gormley and Eamon Ryan -- will have pensions worth at least €3m.
The rules state that if the Government fell tomorrow, every minister would receive a tax-free lump sum and at least 20 per cent of their salary. Every additional year of service adds 5 per cent to the value of the pension up to a maximum of 60 per cent after 10 years. The value of the current total cabinet pension fund is in addition to the major pension payouts to former Taoisigh and ministers.
Last year, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds received a pension of €109,734 as a TD, minister and Taoiseach.
Former Taoisigh Garret FitzGerald and John Bruton received €104,283, while former finance minister Charlie McCreevy received a €75,003 pension.
It emerged yesterday that 16 sitting TDs are refusing to hand back their lucrative ministerial pensions. The 16 Dail members, two senators, two MEPs and our European Commissioner are still topping up their salaries with lavish pensions.
Ireland's EU commissioner, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, refused to say why she won't give up €108,000 from two political pensions which she is paid on top of her €243,000 EU salary. The former Fianna Fail minister is raking in €350,000 as well as other perks in her commissioner's post. And she won't be hit by the cuts to ministerial pensions paid to sitting TDs.
Among the TDs to pick up the pensions are former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (€98,901), Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton (€13,242) and former Labour leader Ruairi Quinn (€41,656).
A spokesman for Mr Ahern confirmed that the former Taoiseach was receiving his ministerial pension on top of his TD's salary. But he added: "Bertie Ahern has taken a reduction of 25 per cent on his ministerial pension."
Also on the list are Fianna Fail's Frank Fahey, Jim McDaid, Ned O'Keeffe, Michael Woods (although he has given up half his amount), Terry Leyden, Ivor Callely and Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher. Fine Gael is represented by Bernard Allen, Sean Barrett, Paul Connaughton, Bernard Durkan, Michael Noonan, Jim O'Keeffe and Jim Higgins, along with Labour's Brian O'Shea and Emmet Stagg.
At his party conference yesterday in Galway, minister Eamon O Cuiv called on Ireland's EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn to consider giving back her ministerial pension given the country's economic woes.
Speaking after a Fianna Fail conference in Galway, Mr O Cuiv said everyone in society has a duty to lead and to see what they can contribute. Asked if this included Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, the minister said it applied to everyone in the country.
Siptu's general president, Jack O'Connor, who is also Ictu president, has called on any public representative in the Oireachtas or in EU institutions in receipt of State pensions to voluntarily forgo them while earning public salaries.
Mr O'Connor said many had done so, and it was "critical to the credibility of our democratic institutions for others to follow".
These salaries and perks are absolutely obscene! These are elected officials who were put into office to govern and to improve the lives of the citizens of Ireland. I am appalled by some of the facts and figures in this article. These same politicians do not hesitate to condemn leaders in private industry who are compensated with large salaries and benefits. Then they turn around and do the very same thing at the expense of the beleaguered and long suffering Irish taxpayer. It appears that the old saying, “on any given day, there is more money stolen with a pen than with a gun” could certainly apply here. Is it any wonder that the country is on the brink of financial disaster???