Monday 27 March 2017

Teacher-TDs in line for double pension bonanza

And some will get three payouts -- but haven't taught for years

Michael Brennan, Aine Kerr and Katherine Donnelly

UP TO 20 teacher-turned-politicians are in line for a double or triple pension -- even though some have not taught for decades, an Irish Independent investigation reveals.

Those currently set to receive triple pensions (TD's, minister's and teacher's) from the taxpayer include FF leader Micheal Martin and cabinet ministers Mary Hanafin and Pat Carey.

There are also three retired cabinet ministers -- Noel Dempsey, Tony Killeen and Batt O'Keeffe -- who are entitled to triple pensions due to their former teaching positions.

Fianna Fail Galway West TD Frank Fahey will be entitled to pensions for being a TD, a junior minister and a teacher when he retires from politics.

He announced in 2009 that he had quit his teaching post in Gort Community School, Galway, which had been held open for him since he entered the Dail in 1982.

There is now intensifying pressure on all TDs after Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny gave up his €100,000 teaching pension pot and his entitlement to a pension.

A number of the TDs contacted yesterday indicated they would also give up their teachers' pensions.

But so far, just seven of the 25 contesting the election have indicated they will not draw a teacher's or lecturer's pension on top of their Dail entitlement.

One of the exceptions to the teacher/TD double act is former minister Mary O'Rourke, who led the way on the issue by giving up her teaching position and all pension rights immediately on entering politics.

"The day I gave up my job, that was the end of it. Not only did I give up my job but I gave up my pension as well. Everything went with it. I just said 'that's the end of that'," she said.

But although many of her fellow teachers-turned-politicians have given up their teaching posts in recent years, they will still be entitled to a teacher's pension on top of their TD's pension when they reach retirement age.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday indicated he was not in favour of TDs getting a teacher's pension on top of their Dail pension.

"I have always believed that people in Dail Eireann should do one job. I don't believe in double jobbing and I don't believe in people drawing two salaries while doing one job," he said.

Secret

Labour TD Joe Costello said he was not taking it "full stop" and Fine Gael TD Jimmy Deenihan said he was also willing to give it up.

And FG finance spokesman Michael Noonan, who is receiving a teacher's pension of around €10,800 a year, said he would give it to the Exchequer temporarily if he was appointed to cabinet, but did not know what he would do after that.

Labour's Brendan Howlin and Roisin Shorthall said they would be willing to give up their separate teachers' pensions as long as it counted towards their Dail pension.

How much teachers' pensions are worth is a closely guarded secret. The Department of Education has refused to reveal the amounts on the grounds that they are personal information.

Under changes being introduced by the Department of Education, newly elected teacher-TDs and senators will be able to keep their old jobs open for up to 10 years in future.

However, the teachers-turned-politicians will no be able to chalk up both teaching and Oireachtas pensions at the same time.

The new arrangements will come into effect from the start of the next Oireachtas.

Fine Gael TDs Joe McHugh and Brian Hayes are both qualified teachers but do not have any entitlement to a pension.

Mr McHugh taught in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, for two years in a temporary position while Mr Hayes went straight into politics.

The issue of TDs holding on to their teaching posts has been a source of controversy for years because it means the Department of Education has to pay contributions towards their pension -- and towards the pension of the substitute teacher replacing them.

Ms Hanafin was among those who had refused to give up their teaching jobs, saying they needed them as fall-back positions in case they were not re-elected. But last January, she resigned the teaching post she had held on to for the past 14 years.

Irish Independent

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