Wednesday 28 September 2016

Taoiseach calls on former Ministers to refuse controversial pension increase

Cormac McQuinn in Milan and Niall O'Connor

Published 09/07/2015 | 15:33

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny Photo: Damien Eagers 2/7/2015
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny Photo: Damien Eagers 2/7/2015

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has called on former ministers to "refuse" a controversial increase in their pensions saying the country is still "fragile economically".

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Mr Kenny made the remarks in the wake of a stormy Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting where one TD called the hike in pensions "disgusting".

Backbenchers turned on Mr Kenny who suggested that ex-politicians like Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern could engage in a "voluntary process" if they wanted to decline generous pension top-ups.

Speaking in Milan today Mr Kenny addressed the former ministers that will benefit from the rise of up to around €1,600 that is to be applied under the Lansdowne Road agreement.

"I would say to the small number involved here. They're former politicians. We're in a fragile position economically. I would say to them - refuse the increase that is coming back."

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin previously said that the government doesn't have the power to stop the increases.

He was asked about the heated parliamentary party meeting.

Mr Kenny is today visiting the Expo Milan 2015 where he said the Irish pavilion is "a brilliant opportunity for Ireland to sell and promote what it does best which is food and hospitality."

His remarks come after the Irish Independent this morning reported that Fine Gael TDs reacted furiously when Mr Kenny refused to take action to prevent the pension increases for ex-ministers.

A Fine Gael party meeting became heated as backbenchers turned on Mr Kenny who suggested that ex-politicians like Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern could engage in a "voluntary process" if they wanted to decline generous pension top-ups.

There were angry scenes at the meeting as TDs warned of a backlash from voters unless the top-ups, described are blocked.

Several backbenchers, including Jerry Buttimer, Brendan Griffin, Tony Lawlor and Alan Farrell, demanded the Cabinet introduce legislation to prevent the pension top-ups.

Mr Griffin from Kerry South, who described the top-ups as "disgusting".

Mr Kenny left TDs aghast after he responded that the former politicians might engage in a "voluntary" process and hand back the money on their own terms.

"It was like he was living in a different world," said one deputy present.

"The public won't forgive us for it," said another.

A small number of deputies left the meeting after party bosses moved the discussion away from pension top-ups and on to the issue of social media.

The row came on the same day that former Taoiseach Brian Cowen - who received a pension of €134,379 last year - told the Banking Inquiry he was surprised by the impact of the IMF's arrival in Ireland in 2010.

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