Retiring Labour ministers stay tight-lipped on pension top-ups
Labour's retiring ex-ministers are refusing to say if they will comply with a request from Taoiseach Enda Kenny to donate pension top-ups back to the State.
The pension row is becoming increasingly embarrassing for Mr Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton, who yesterday backed the Taoiseach's call to retired office-holders to hand back the top-ups they are due to receive from the taxpayer.
However, despite the public outcry, former ministers Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn refused to say if they will give back a portion of their substantial pension pots once they quit politics.
Mr Rabbitte - who will get a combined TD and ministerial pension of around €70,000 a year - said the Taoiseach's request "seems reasonable", but would not say if he will take the top-up. "I am not on a pension. The Taoiseach's request seems reasonable to me, and that's all I have to say," he said.
When pushed on whether he will take the increased pension payment, the former communications minister said: "I am a serving TD and I'm not really going there."
Similarly, Mr Quinn, whose time as education and finance minister entitles him to a pension worth more than €70,000 a year, declined to say if he will comply with the Taoiseach's request.
"I'm still in the Dáil and I will be there until the end of the current Government and I will consider these things when the time comes. I am not a retired politician yet," Mr Quinn told the Irish Independent. Former tánaiste Eamon Gilmore could not be reached for comment.
Ms Burton weighed in behind the Taoiseach yesterday and insisted former ministers should consider giving back some of their pension as an acknowledgement of the suffering the rest of the country endured during the recession.
Mr Kenny was forced to address concerns among his party members at last week's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting. The heated meeting saw prominent TDs insist the party was going to suffer at the polls from the public backlash over the top-ups of around €1,600.
In response, Mr Kenny called on former office-holders to consider Ireland's "fragile" economic recovery and forego the pension increases which were agreed by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin in the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
A Labour spokesman said Mr Rabbitte and Mr Quinn were part of the Cabinet that reduced ministerial pensions and abolished severance payments.
"In stark contrast, most of the FF cabinets did nothing but consistently increase their pay," a source added.