Friday 21 October 2016

FG TDs turn on Kenny over hike in ministers' pensions

Published 09/07/2015 | 02:30

Jerry Buttimer was one of those who criticised the plans to increase the pensions of former government ministers
Jerry Buttimer was one of those who criticised the plans to increase the pensions of former government ministers

Fine Gael TDs last night turned on Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan over the pension increases for former government ministers and controversy surrounding the operation of Nama.

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Several backbenchers, including Jerry Buttimer, Brendan Griffin, Tony Lawlor and Alan Farrell, demanded the Cabinet introduce legislation to prevent the pension top-ups which were described at the meeting as "disgusting".

The parliamentary party meeting heard the public are furious over the payments, introduced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, and that leadership needs to be shown from the Government

But deputies were left aghast at the Taoiseach's response to the issue, suggesting that former ministers may engage in a "voluntary process" and not accept the increases.

A small number of TDs are reported to have left the room after Dublin South Central TD Catherine Byrne, who was acting as chairperson, moved the debate to the issue of social media use.

The tensions came on the same day former Taoiseach Brian Cowen - who received a pension of €134,379 last year - told the Banking Inquiry that he was surprised by the impact of the IMF's arrival in Ireland in 2010. But it was the issue of a top-up to pensions belonging to former officeholders like Mr Cowen and others that dominated an icy Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.

Mr Buttimer, the Fine Gael TD for Cork South-Central, said there was deep public frustration that the payments, which are attached to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, are still going to be paid.

He was supported by a number of TDs, including Mr Lawlor from Kildare South, Mr Farrell from Dublin North and Mr Griffin from Kerry South, who described the top-ups as "disgusting".

Mr Farrell said he believed the Cabinet should explore the idea of introducing legislation which would introduce a cap on large pensions, similar to those paid to former taoisigh and ministers.

But Mr Kenny left TDs aghast after he responded that the former politicians might engage in a "voluntary" process and hand back the money on their own terms.

"It was like he was living in a different world," said one deputy present.

"No urgency was shown by any of the senior Fine Gael ministers present."

"The public won't forgive us for it," said another.

And in a further headache for the Fine Gael leadership, some of those present said the party would be proven wrong in opting against a public inquiry into the controversial sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book.

Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin, from Mr Kenny's Mayo constituency, called for an independent inquiry into Nama - a call that was backed by Mr Griffin.

Mr Noonan, who was present at the meeting, made no response to the concerns raised.

But his junior counterpart, Simon Harris, told the meeting that the Comptroller and Auditor General has a presence in the Nama offices and the matter can be brought up with the agency by members of the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee today.

Irish Independent

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