New senators will share windfall of almost €450,000
Thirteen of the recently elected members of the new Seanad are to share a windfall of almost €450,000, it has emerged.
This stems from 13 of the new members of the Seanad being entitled to local authority gratuity payments after they resigned their seats on councils to take up their Seanad seats.
Two of the senators, Senator Michael Mullins and Senator Terry Brennan (both Fine Gael), are each entitled to receive sums of €47,710 having served on local authorities between 1985 and 2011.
In all, the 13 senators are to share €434,174 -- however, they must be over 50 years of age to receive the gratuity, which is taxable.
Newly elected members of the Dail who resigned from councils to take their Dail seats are also entitled to a gratuity, which is paid out by a local authority.
Eight of the qualifying senators are Fine Gael, with four Labour senators and one Sinn Fein -- no Fianna Fail senator qualifies for the gratuity payment. On becoming senators, the former councillors are now in receipt of an annual salary of €65,621 plus expenses.
New Sinn Fein senator David Cullinane is entitled to a gratuity of €23,100 having served on Waterford City Council between 2004 and 2011. However, Senator Cullinane yesterday hit out at the gratuity payment system.
"The payments should be made when a person is of pensionable age -- not when they are 50 or over and they are moving into a new job in the Seanad with a very generous salary.
"To be taking money from cash-strapped local authorities in those circumstances is wrong," he said.
"Again, it is another example of the ruling class making decisions to suit themselves."
Former Louth councillor Senator Terry Brennan (FG) said: "I don't know what I'm entitled to. I haven't even applied (for the payment). When I went for election in the 1980s the remuneration was not a consideration."
And Senator Michael Mullins (FG) said:"I haven't enquired with Galway County Council over the payment. I haven't pursued it. If there is something there, I am happy to leave it there until I retire from politics. I know very little about it,"
Former Clare councillor Senator Martin Conway (FG) will not receive his €23,100 gratuity for another 13 years in 2024 when he turns 50.
"The country is effectively bankrupt at the moment and if my gratuity is there in 2024, I would be delighted and if it's not, it's not," he said.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said that "any changes to the current scheme will be framed in light of the ongoing review of the local government system".