Monday 26 September 2016

FF councillor in Facebook row over new TDs' payments

Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30

Internal party row: Jennifer Cuffe Photo: Gerry Mooney
Internal party row: Jennifer Cuffe Photo: Gerry Mooney

A FIANNA Fail councillor has landed herself at the centre of a row after calling on three of the party's new TDs to give up gratuity payments they're entitled to.

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Dun Laoghaire representative Jennifer Cuffe, who failed to win a seat in both the Dail and Seanad elections, described the so-called "retirement gratuity" as "outrageous".

In a Facebook post she questioned whether her colleagues Pat Casey, Eugene Murphy and Declan Breathnach would decline the money.

The three Fianna Fail TDs are among eight new members of the Dail entitled to share in a combined €335,000 from local authorities on which they served as councillors.

"I think this 'golden handshake' payment is outrageous and would hope that our TDs would not take this or donate it to charity if they do take it," Ms Cuffe wrote.

However, she faced a serious backlash from other members of the party who felt she should have raised the issue privately.

In response she wrote: "It's open to the three TDs to respond or not. Obviously they are choosing not to."

Ms Cuffe was seen as being promoted by the party headquarters during the recent elections and was placed on the Wicklow ticket for the General Election alongside Mr Casey, despite being a councillor for Dun Laoghaire in Dublin.

Mr Casey, who is entitled to €39,100 for his time on Wicklow County Council, told the Herald: "I'm disappointed to be attacked publicly by one of my colleagues on social media.

"If she's bitter about what happened, it's not with me. I've already said publicly that I would take it [the payment]."

Louth TD Declan Breatnach said he was aware of the Facebook row and his initial reaction was "that she was having a swipe at a TD in her own constituency, not at me".

The first-time deputy is entitled to €58,700 but said that in over two decades as a councillor he had spent considerable money on community groups and politics.

He said that as a teacher he never left a place of employment without hiring a substitute at his own expense.

"It's disingenuous to make comment on somebody's personal and legal entitlement. It's some compensation for being out of pocket."

Mr Murphy, who is due €59,000, was not available for comment but previously indicated that he intended to give €12,5000 to local groups in Roscommon. The payments are fully taxable.

Ms Cuffe said she had no regrets about her post. "I believe if you take a higher office that comes with a pension then you shouldn't take it. It would be different if you were leaving the council and not taking a higher job," she said.

Scrapped

Among the other TDs in line for a payment is Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. He is entitled to almost €35,000 after a decade on Cork County Council but has said he will get the payment deferred due to his new role.

AAA-PBP's Mick Barry, has said that it should be "scrapped" and that he will use the €29,000 due to be paid to him for local causes and campaigns.

Others entitled to the payment for service to their local authorities are Independent TD Catherine Connolly (€53,500), Imelda Munster of Sinn Fein (€38,700), and Brid Smith of AAA-PBP (€22,200).

Herald

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