Sunday 23 April 2017

Sutherland on €50,000 pension but calls for cuts

Former AG among ex-office holders claiming from State while working

Daniel McConnell, Chief Reporter

Multi-millionaire Goldman Sachs chairman Peter Sutherland, who has called for harsher austerity measures, is claiming a state pension worth more than €50,000 a year.

Three weeks ago, Mr Sutherland, a former Attorney General, told the Government: "We have to bring our costs back in line with the European average and if pay is part of that, then it has to be considered."

Today, we reveal that he and a host of former ministers and other office holders are claiming substantial pensions, while still occupying high office at a cost of over €11m to the taxpayer in 2010.

Mr Sutherland, despite a personal fortune of €80m, according to the Sunday Independent Rich List, has received over €250,000 in pension payouts from the taxpayer since 2006, and has continued to claim since Ireland's economic demise in 2008.

Yesterday the annual accounts from the Department of Finance for 2010 revealed he received €52,632 last year and surrendered none of it. Mr Sutherland's call for deeper austerity was criticised yesterday, and he was accused of having little or no moral authority, given he is still in receipt of his AG pension.

"If you are going to moralise and preach from on high, you have to walk the walk not just talk the talk. It's a matter of moral authority and when revelations like this come out, it's clear he has very little," said Friends First chief economist Jim Power.

Another former Attorney General and former AIB chairman, Dermot Gleeson, also continued to claim a pension in excess of €52,000 last year, despite his highly successful career as a senior counsel.

The Department of Finance figures also reveal eight members of the current Cabinet continued to receive full or partial pensions from their previous stints as ministers during the Nineties.

A number of ministers surrendered a portion of their pensions following a public outcry last year that they were receiving pension payouts while still members of the Dail.

However, according to the figures, current finance minister Michael Noonan received €33,578 and did not surrender any of that back to the State. Mr Noonan has said this money was used for charitable donations. Despite making a big play last year about surrendering their pensions while still serving in the Dail, Taoiseach Enda Kenny received a payment totalling €11,847. Of that he surrendered €6,989.

The man who tried to replace him as leader of FG, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, received a pension payment of €11,131, of which he surrendered €4,000.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn received a pension of €33,953, of which he surrendered €17,046.

Fellow Labour ministers Eamon Gilmore, Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte took home half payments of the pension pots awarded to them from their time in government between 1992 and 1997.

Current Anglo Irish Bank chairman Alan Dukes, who is believed to be paid €150,000 for that role, has continued to claim both his ministerial pension of €45,470 and his TD's pension of €55,019.

Last year Mr Dukes refused to waive his €100,000 double political payment despite earning a similar amount as the state-appointed chairman of Anglo Irish Bank.

The figures suggest Taoiseach Bertie Ahern gave up none of his pension, despite making promises to do so. According to the Department of Finance document, Mr Ahern received a ministerial pension of €30,835 with no amount of that surrendered. Mr Ahern has been earning up to €32,000 ($40,000) for speaking engagements in the United States throughout this year, while in receipt of his pension.

Although he is busy as an ambassador for the IFSC, former FG Taoiseach John Bruton also failed to hand back any of his €100,027 pension in 2010. Both Mr Ahern and Mr Bruton, like the others, would also receive the maximum TD's pension of over €50,000.

Current EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan Quinn, who earns a salary of €200,000, surrendered €21,588 of her €64,281 ministerial pension. She still received her full TD's pension.

Former Labour leader and Tanaiste, and current AIB director, Dick Spring, received €76,932 in a ministerial pension on top of his TD's pension.

Another former Tanaiste, Michael McDowell, received a ministerial pension of €31,435 as well as his TD's pension.

Newstalk Breakfast show host and former Agriculture Minister Ivan Yates also received €28,243 in a pension on top of his salary from the independent broadcaster. He has previously declined to offer up a portion of his pension, but said he would do so if asked by the government of the day.

The Government has been called on to end the practice of people below 65, or those who are still working, getting ministerial pensions.

"It is absolutely ludicrous that people who are occupying high office now are being paid pensions from their previous time there. It doesn't happen in the private sector and it shouldn't happen now, particularly when the country is broke," said Mr Power.

Sunday Independent

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