SIXTEEN sitting TDs are refusing to hand back their lucrative ministerial pens- ions.
A survey carried out by the Irish Independent revealed that 16 TDs, two senators, two MEPs and our European Commissioner are still topping up their salaries with pensions that cost taxpayers more than €500,000 a year.
The highly paid politicians are clinging on to their lucrative ministerial payments despite Government and opposition complaints about bank bosses' pension entitlements.
European Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn yesterday refused to say why she won't give up €108,000 from two political pensions, which she is paid on top of her €243,000 EU salary.
The former Fianna Fail minister is raking in €350,000 at taxpayers' expense, as well as other perks in her Commissioner's post. And Ms Geoghegan-Quinn won't be hit by the cuts to ministerial pensions paid to sitting TDs.
The Government reduced the ministerial pensions for sitting TDs by 25pc last year. After the next general election, a sitting TD will not be allowed to also pick up a ministerial pension.
But the Government has no plans to advance this deadline.
But until the next general election, the 20 TDs, senators and MEPs are to continue to be paid ministerial pensions on top of their salaries. Long-serving TDs are paid €98,424.
Labour's Michael D Higgins became the latest TD last night to announce he was giving up his pension later this year.
He said he had written to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to ask him to come up with an across-the-board cut -- and had been using his ministerial pension to finance African development projects in the meantime.
"I will end it altogether during this year," he said.
A spokesman for Mr Ahern confirmed that the former Taoiseach was receiving his ministerial pension on top of his TD's salary. However, he argued the size of his Mr Ahern's pension had already been reduced by legislation.
"Bertie Ahern has taken a reduction of 25pc on his ministerial pension," the spokesman said.
"Well that's a question that I have refused to comment on up to now and I continue to refuse to comment on it," she told RTE's 'News at One'.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was nominated as European Commissioner by the Government last autumn.
Previously she was a member of the European Court of Auditors.
A European Commission spokesman said she was not in receipt of a pension from the Court of Auditors.
She gets a ministerial pension of €64,000 and a TD's pension of €44,000.
On top of her European Commissioner salary of €243,338, she also gets paid a residence allowance of €36,500 and an entertainment allowance of €7,284.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was accompanied on her trip to Dublin yesterday by an adviser, but he did not respond to queries from the Irish Independent.
After the next general election, sitting TDs will not be allowed to pick up a ministerial pension. But Ms Geoghegan-Quinn will also be unaffected by this clampdown. She was also unaffected by last year's 25pc cut on ministerial pensions.
The Department of Finance confirmed that these cuts announced last summer would have no impact on Ms Geoghegan-Quinn.
"The changes apply to members of the Oireachtas, and in due course the European Parliament, but excludes the Commission," a spokesman said.
Sitting TDs who are former ministers will continue to get pensions until the next general election, despite the whining about Bank of Ireland boss Richie Boucher's pension pot.
The list of former ministers continues to grow with Willie O'Dea's resignation.
Their pensions were reduced by 25pc last year, with the Government claiming legal advice saying they couldn't go any further.
After the elections, former ministers will no longer receive pensions on top of their TD's salaries.
Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin yesterday confirmed that Government had no plans to advance this deadline.