Opposition piles pressure on isolated FF
FINE Gael and Labour Party TDs yesterday gave up their ministerial pensions -- piling pressure on to their isolated Fianna Fail counterparts.
The opposition announced plans to force FF and the Green Party to vote on retaining the pensions.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday agreed to examine Fine Gael's proposed legislation to ban sitting TDs from receiving ministerial pensions.
But Mr Cowen continued to claim the Government could not legally remove the pension entitlements of sitting politicians.
All the opposition party TDs volunteered to sacrifice their pensions yesterday, leaving Fianna Fail isolated.
FG leader Enda Kenny met with the remaining seven TDs in his party who were in receipt of pensions and they agreed to give them up.
FG MEP Jim Higgins will also give up his ministerial pension.
The three Labour TDs who had hung on to their ministerial pensions -- Emmet Stagg, Ruairi Quinn and Brian O'Shea -- all announced yesterday that they would be handing them back voluntarily.
And Labour Galway West TD Michael D Higgins said he had written to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to ask him to stop his ministerial pension immediately.
FG deputy leader Richard Bruton also wrote to Mr Lenihan, saying he wanted to give up his pension.
Some of the FG TDs have indicated a preference to donate their pension payments to charity, rather than surrender them to the Government.
Mr Kenny said the legislation his party had drafted would remove the ministerial pensions from sitting Oireachtas members.
"If the Government does not accept this Fine Gael amendment, I will force a vote in the Dail next week to seek support for the content of the Fine Gael proposal," he said.
"If Fianna Fail and the Greens vote down this proposal, all Fine Gael ministerial pension holders have voluntarily agreed to give their pension either to the Exchequer or to Irish charities," he said.
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore revealed that he had not spoken to any of his TDs still in receipt of the pension -- saying it was because he did not have to.
"Most of my colleagues have given up their pensions and I did so myself some time ago. I have confidence in my colleagues that given the changed circumstances in the economy they will reflect on the situation and they will do what has to be done," he said.
Like Fine Gael, Labour is preparing its own private members' bill to abolish the payment of ministerial pensions to serving politicians.
However, Mr Gilmore admitted that it could be blocked due to the ban on private members' bills in the Dail dealing with money matters.
He said Mr Cowen had come out of the ministerial crisis as "indecisive, as he has out of most issues".
The Labour leader also expressed surprise that the issue of Maire Geoghegan-Quinn's pensions had not been dealt with by Mr Cowen beforehand.
"I was surprised it hadn't been discussed with her at the time she was appointed," he said.