Thursday 29 June 2017

Hanafin to cling to her '€400,000' pension pot

Taxpayers foot bill for TDs who won't quit teaching posts

Ailish O'Hora Public Affairs Correspondent

SOCIAL and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin is refusing to give up her old school job as she amasses a teaching pension which would cost her nearly €400,000 if she were a private sector worker today.

Her teaching pension is in addition to the Rolls Royce retirement nest eggs she enjoys as a TD and minister.

Ms Hanafin is heading up the Government's overhaul of the pension system, which will result in thousands of people having to work until they are 68.

She is among eight teacher-turned-TDs who are amassing a combined €3.2m pension pot by refusing to quit their teaching posts.

Their pensions are continuing to grow in value because they are linked to current teacher salaries, an Irish Independent investigation can reveal.

These politicians are also providing themselves with fallback careers should they lose their seats at a time of record unemployment, including the 1,500 teachers who are on the dole.

As well as earning a ministerial salary of €191,417, Ms Hanafin's teaching pension fund is estimated to be worth €415,800 in today's private market, based on calculations provided by an independent actuary.

"It is a special arrangement given the lack of surety which accompanies a political career," she told the Irish Independent.

Based on government guidelines, she would be also be entitled to a ministerial pension of about €60,000 and TD benefits of more than €30,000 if she retired today.

The current valuation of her teaching pension fund was arrived at by applying a multiple of 30 to her annual basic teaching pension of €12,600.

It was based on an annual teacher's salary of €63,000 and other factors, including prevailing interest rates.

Other teacher-TDs in the Dail include Ms Hanafin's cabinet colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail's Margaret Conlon and Maire Hoctor, Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan, Labour's Tommy Broughan and independents Joe Behan and Maureen O'Sullivan.

Quota

All of these double-jobbing TDs will see their teacher pensions increase because they are based on current teaching salaries.

A number of the TDs claimed they were not resigning their positions because their schools would lose a full-time teaching post if they did.

Mr Martin told the Irish Independent: "My pension entitlements were frozen when I stopped teaching. If I resigned the position the school would lose a post."

However, education sources said this depended on the number of teachers and pupils in the school in question.

For example, the principal of Gort Community School in Gort, Co Galway, confirmed that when Fianna Fail TD Frank Fahey's resignation became effective last year, the school did not lose a post because it was not over its quota.

Labour's Tommy Broughan, who taught at St Aidan's CBS, Whitehall, Dublin, for 12 years before entering politics, claimed he wanted to resign as the system was out of date and needed to be changed.

But he added that he was also concerned that the school could lose a post.

"I've already told the school that I want to resign," he said.

"But that is a matter for the school and I don't want to leave them without a post.

"There has been a change in the economic climate in recent times," he said.

Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan, who was elected last year in a by-election, said she would not be resigning her old job either.

Unions have called for changes to the lucrative pension and secondment entitlements of teacher-turned-TDs and the Department of Education has been assessing the situation since last year.

"We are suggesting that this arrangement be reviewed with a view to introducing a cap, so that if a teacher serves a certain number of years as a TD, and intends to continue as a TD, that he/she is required to resign from their teaching position," a spokeswoman for the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland told the Irish Independent

The department would not elaborate on what changes were being examined and when plans may be brought to the Cabinet.

Irish Independent

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