Saturday 20 December 2014

Mary Lou McDonald's husband in line for gas firm payout

SF deputy leader's family could pocket up to €66,000 after sale

Published 27/04/2014 | 02:30

Mary Lou McDonald TD. Picture: Tom Burke
Mary Lou McDonald TD. Picture: Tom Burke

MARY Lou McDonald's husband is in line for a five-figure payout following the privatisation of Bord Gais Energy, the Sunday Independent has learned. The Sinn Fein deputy leader has regularly criticised the Government for selling State assets, but now her family could pocket up to €66,500 from the sale of the energy giant.

Ms McDonald's husband Martin Lanigan is among the 1,001 current and former Bord Gais employees who will share in a €53.6m tax-free windfall from a share ownership scheme which is being dissolved as part of the company's restructuring.

Bord Gais recently announced the sale of the energy arm of the company for €1.1bn but the networks side of the organisation, where Mr Lanigan works, will remain in State control.

Ms McDonald recently said selling off "successful self-financing commercial State companies" such as the ESB and Bord Gais "makes no sense in good times or in bad".

She added: "Instead of flogging off the last of the State's wealth for a quick buck, Government should make commercial state companies part and parcel of the solution to creating jobs and delivering growth."

When approached by the Sunday Independent and asked if the payment conflicted with her views on privatisation, Ms McDonald said she still believed selling a profitable State asset did not make sense.

Ms McDonald also confirmed her husband worked as a gas control superintendent in Bord Gais.

Mr Lanigan, who works in the emergency dispatch division, worked for the firm when the Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) was established by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in the mid-2000s.

Employees were given a 3.27 per cent share of the company in return for cost-saving initiatives which saved Bord Gais €32m.

It was announced recently that the scheme, which was open to staff working in both wings of the organisation between 2005 and 2009, would be wound up as part of the restructuring of the semi-State body.

The payments to employees are broken up into brackets depending on the number of years they were employed by the company for the duration of the scheme.

Those working for at least one year of the scheme will be entitled to a minimum payment of €17,500 while the highest payout to those working for the entire five years will be €66,500. The average payment is €53,600, according to the energy firm.

Staff who started working for the company after 2009 are not entitled to any payment, but there are 250 former employees who left the company in recent years who will receive a payment.

The Bord Gais Group of Unions opposed the sale of the company to a consortium of private firms headed up by international energy giant Centrica in December.

However the group of unions said it was assured by Government and management that employment terms and conditions would be protected under the deal.

The sale is part of a restructuring programme which also includes the incorporation of Irish Water into the semi-State agency and the rebranding of the company as Ervia.

The separation of the energy and networks division was mandated by the European Union.

Ms McDonald married her husband in the University Church on St Stephen's Green in Dublin city centre in May 1996.

Mr Lanigan worked as a clerk in Bord Gais Eireann at the time while Ms McDonald was a Dublin City University graduate.

The couple began married life living in a semi-detached house in Arbour Hill in Dublin city but have since moved to another area where they live with their two young children.

Ms McDonald, originally from Rathgar in south Dublin, was recently filmed shopping in her local Superquinn in Blanchardstown as part of a TV3 documentary.

Sunday Independent

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