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Friday 23 June 2017

Sacked ministers get €25,000 to soften blow

And there is more cash on the way

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

SEVEN junior ministers sacked last year by Taoiseach Brian Cowen to save money were handed "golden parachutes" of about €25,000 each to soften the blow, with more payments due this year.

New figures released last night also showed former Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue, who quit last year amid uproar over his expenses, walked away with €18,481 in the first instalment of a “golden parachute” – and he is due more cash.

The payment details come as the Government is preparing what is widely expected to be the toughest Budget in the history of the State, amid widespread dissatisfaction among workers about pay cuts and reduced pension benefits.

And the 2009 Finance Accounts reveal former attorney general Peter Sutherland, who yesterday said wages, costs and pensions were too high here and called on the Government to make “hard decisions”, was handed a state pension payment of €52,000 last year.

The December 7 Budget is expected to lead to higher taxes and reduced public services, and follows two years of tax rises, spending cuts and increasing unemployment.

In April 2009, Mr Cowen asked all 20 junior ministers to resign and re-appointed 15 the following month, abolishing five positions to bring the cost of government down.

However, Mr Cowen also sacked two other ministers and replaced them with backbenchers.

At the time, junior ministers were paid €54,000 in addition to the basic TD’s salary of €100,000. They received severance packages on a sliding scale based on their length of service.

Noel Ahern, Mary Wallace, Sean Power, John McGuinnness, Michael Kitt and Maire Hoctor, took home €25,277 each and Jimmy Devins received €25,273, giving a total of €176,935.

According to information provided by the Department of Finance, those who were sacked received 75pc of their previous monthly salary for their first six months on the backbenches.

For the next year, until this October, they receive half of their monthly ministerial salary (around €27,000) before falling back to 25pc of the monthly salary (€6,750) for the next six months.

Payments

Accounts published last night by the Department of Finance also showed pension payments made last year to former office holders including: former Taoisigh John Bruton (€100,027); Garret FitzGerald (€103,926); Albert Reynolds (€109,358); and Bertie Ahern (€98,901).

Mr Ahern, a sitting TD, earlier this year said he would forgo his pension while he was still serving in the Dail. Anglo Irish Bank chairman Alan Dukes, a former Fine Gael minister, received a pension of €45,470 in 2009.

A former Attorney General, ex-AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson, who stepped down from his position in the bank last year, received a pension payment of €50,899.

Mr Gleeson was a central figure in the banking crisis, and was one of the senior bankers who went to meet Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen on the night of the bank guarantee, September 29, 2008.

He was also famously egged at a meeting of AIB shareholders last year. The Finance Accounts details will spark anger among taxpayers as Mr Lenihan prepares to cut more than €3bn in the upcoming Budget. PRSI, the health levy and income levies are likely to be rolled into a new increased single ‘social contribution’ payment.

While all these levies are already in place, the Government is expected to apply them to more taxpayers and at lower income levels.

It is also believed that controversial items from Colm McCarthy’s An Bord Snip Nua report may have to be revived. The Finance Accounts for 2009 also showed that Comptroller and Auditor General John Buckley was paid €252,876, but took a pay cut of €27,323, and Chief Justice John L Murray was paid €304,947. Mr Murray also got a pension of €72,983 from his time as Attorney General.

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