Irish News

Friday 11 July 2014

Thanks big fellas: Ahern and Cowen get massive pensions

€100,000-plus for 30 ex-ministers in payment bonanza

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 10/11/2011|05:00

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FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen will get a taxpayer-funded pension worth more than €150,000 every year for the rest of his life.

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His predecessor Bertie Ahern will pocket €152,331 annually.

Mr Cowen is already entitled to the payment, even though he is only 51 -- 14 years younger than the normal pension age.

And another 28 former ministers are entitled to annual payments worth more than €100,000.

These include corrupt former justice minister Ray Burke, who served time in jail. Others getting more than €100,000 include former arts minister Martin Cullen and ex-health minister Mary Harney, who gets €129,805.

Former Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue -- who resigned amid public uproar over his lavish expenses -- will get €119,177 annually, the same amount as former finance minister Charlie McCreevy.

Pensions experts last night said private sector workers would have to amass pension funds of up to €6m to get such generous payments.

Mr Ahern's and Mr Cowen's pensions would cost between €5m and €6m each, while Mr Burke's is worth around €3m.

And many of the 100 plus former ministers receiving taxpayer-funded pensions also have other incomes, including from serving on company boards.

Peter Barry, a wealthy businessman, gets €126,000 and fellow ex-Tanaiste Michael McDowell, who has returned to work as a senior counsel since leaving politics, gets €60,388.

Retired EU commissioner Padraig Flynn gets €87,129 a year from his time as a TD and minister, and, like Mr McCreevy, this does not include his service in Europe.

Despite uproar last year over serving politicians drawing pensions, sitting MEP Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher is getting a total of €70,562 a year from his time as a TD and junior minister.

Fellow Fianna Fail MEP Liam Aylward has given up his ministerial pension, but is still drawing just under €50,000 for his time in the Dail. MEPs are on a salary of around €92,000, and also receive generous expenses.

The latest figures, which combine TD and ministerial pensions and take into account cuts implemented in recent budgets, were obtained by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Pearse Doherty, the party's finance spokesman, last night said: "The fact that this level of payment is being paid to former ministers when we are facing into one of the harshest Budgets in history is a scandal.

"Many of the people on this list are the architects of our economic downfall and of the hardships being faced by hundreds of thousands of Irish people today," Mr Doherty added.

President-elect Michael D Higgins is entitled to €87,928 a year, although he has said he will give this up while he is serving in Aras an Uactharain. 'Newstalk' presenter and former Fine Gael TD and minister Ivan Yates gets €74,836.

Other big earners include former Taoisigh John Bruton (€141,849) and Albert Reynolds (€149,740). Mr Bruton is currently chairman of the IFSC.

Another former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, is entitled to €133,025, although he is gifting some of this back to the State -- but the exact amount is not specified.

The figures show that four government-appointed bank directors are also in receipt of big pensions.

Alan Dukes, chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, gets €94,467, while former Labour Tanaiste Dick Spring, now a director of AIB, receives €121,108.

Former Fianna Fail finance minister Ray MacSharry, a non-executive director of Irish Life and Permanent, gets €88,936 and former agriculture minister Joe Walsh, who sits on the board of Bank of Ireland, gets €119,177.

All were appointed by former finance minister Brian Lenihan after the bank bailouts.

Noel Ahern, Bertie Ahern's brother who served as a junior minister, gets €70,233 a year, while former justice minister Dermot Ahern and transport minister Noel Dempsey get €120,965 and €119,177 respectively.

Tanaiste

However, a number of the ministers from the Fianna Fail-Green Party are not included in the figures released to Sinn Fein. These include former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, as well as Batt O'Keeffe, Mary Hanafin, Pat Carey and Tony Killeen.

Green Party ministers Eamon Ryan and John Gormley are not included either.

However, it was unclear last night why these were excluded from the list provided by the Office of the Paymaster General and the Houses of the Oireachtas.

One reason may be that ministerial pensions are not paid to retirees under 50 -- or until they turn 65, in the case of TDs who first took ministerial office after 2004. A minimum service of two years is required for all ministerial pensions. The rate is 20pc of salary for the first two years plus 5pc for each year of additional service. Oireachtas pensions are capped at 20 years' service.

Others gifting part or all of their pensions back to the public purse are EU commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, who gave up her ministerial pension after public uproar last year; MEPs Gay Mitchell, Marian Harkin and Proinsias de Rossa; and former Labour junior finance minister Eithne Fitzgerald.

Irish Independent

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