Thursday 25 May 2017

Norris's disability pay three times more than he admitted

Special investigation

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

SENATOR David Norris received disability payments worth up to three times more than he has previously admitted, the Irish Independent has learned.

Mr Norris was paid the equivalent of up to three-quarters of a lecturer's salary every year for the 16 years he claimed the payments from Trinity College while also serving full-time in the Seanad.

This is triple the amount that Mr Norris initially said he was paid and means that he received disability payments possibly totalling as much as €720,000 over the entire period. He received the payments between 1994 and July of last year, when he reached pension age.

The amount is based on wage increments provided by Trinity College, which show that Mr Norris would have received between €26,400 and €32,300 in disability in 1994, rising to between €54,366 and €61,752 for the final full year. The payments were index-linked to benchmarking.

He continued to accrue pension entitlements during the time he received the disability payments and he now gets around €2,500 in pension payments from Trinity. A similar pension would cost €700,000 in the private sector.

During the years when he was getting the disability payment, Mr Norris was also getting a senator's wage, which was €61,073 last year, as well as expenses and other payments.

Although Mr Norris often claimed the least expenses of all senators, clocking in at just €1,354 in 2009, he also received the leader's allowance, an unvouched payment of €23,383 a year given to Independent senators since 2001.

The Trinity senator has refused to reveal exactly how much the disability payments were worth to him.

His campaign last night said it had requested all the details from Trinity but have been told "it's all in archives and storage and they don't have the manpower to get it for us".

"It was a private income protection scheme and it was part of his terms of employment so there was no state benefit involved or anything connected with it at all," a spokesman said last night. "It was a purely private thing that Trinity offered." Mr Norris's own financial adviser, Bob Joyce, said: "75pc of salary disability payment was the norm for disability cover for many major employers".

The revelation will come as a further embarrassment to Mr Norris, who refused to divulge the information despite protestations that his life was "an open book". However, despite this, he refused on a number of occasions to answer questions on the payment.

Mr Norris was a lecturer with 26 years' experience when he took disability payments and left Trinity in 1994. He said he was unable to continue his work as a lecturer because he contracted waterborne Hepatitis during a trip to eastern Europe.

Mr Norris was again asked about the disability payment controversy last night, but tried to put it behind him and asked to move on to other issues.

Meanwhile, Mr Norris was embroiled in further controversy yesterday when a recording of the now-infamous interview he gave to restaurant critic Helen Lucy-Burke was broadcast on RTE's 'Liveline'.

In the interview, Mr Norris makes controversial comments about the age of sexual consent. Mr Norris last night said there was "absolutely nothing new" in the tape.

Irish Independent

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