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Monday 26 June 2017

Wealthy elite still claim bumper State pensions

Ex-politicians paid six-figure allowances despite top salaries

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

Former politicians and some of Ireland's most wealthy lawyers are among those claiming substantial state pensions, despite the country's dire economic predicament.

In a week in which 16 politicians were forced to hand back their pensions, the Sunday Independent can reveal the names of a host of well-known public figures who have been paid massive pensions while earning significant salaries.

Former President Mary Robinson, currently based in New York as president of worldwide advocacy group Realizing Rights, received a total pension of €187,297.

This was made up of €150,748 for her times as president and €36,549 for her time as a senator. Former Taoiseach John Bruton, who went on to serve as EU Ambassador to Washington, received a total pension from the state in 2008 of €150,534. He received €152,614 in 2009, and both amounts exclude any pension entitlements he has from his time with the EU.

Former Labour leader and Tanaiste Dick Spring, who is a state-appointed director on the AIB board, received a combined ministerial and TD pension in 2008 worth €127,545, according to official figures. Last year, he received €129,145.

Another banker-turned-politician, Alan Dukes, now chairman designate of Anglo Irish Bank and who last week insisted he would cling on to his pension, received a combined pension in 2008 of €98,431. Last year that figure was €100,489. Mr Dukes earned €102,000 as a non-executive director of Anglo Irish Bank last year and is expected to see his salary increase to at least that of outgoing Anglo Irish executive chairman Donal O'Connor, who was paid €151,949 a year.

Recently retired EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who is 60, was paid €125,404 in a combined pension in 2008 and €126,959 in 2009. His pension amounts don't include his entitlements from his time in Brussels.

Former Tanaiste and PD leader Michael McDowell -- who returned to the Law Library, where he is a senior counsel, after losing his seat -- received a pension of €108,800 in 2008, which included a severance lump sum. Last year he received a reduced amount of €62,448.

A number of the country's leading lawyers are also in receipt of significant state pensions. John L Murray, the current Chief Justice who is paid €295,915 a year, also received €71,465 in a pension in 2008 for his service as Attorney General.

Former AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson, who is a senior counsel and former Attorney General, received €49,841 in a state pension in 2008. This is in addition to the €203,000 he got for his duties at the State's largest bank. He stepped down as chairman of AIB last year.

Another former Attorney General, Peter Sutherland, received a state pension of €51,538 in 2008, according to official figures. This is despite a current fortune of €128m.

In total, according to the latest available figures, €8,444,172 was paid out to 251 Oireachtas "pensioners" in one year; while €11m was paid out in ministerial pensions, lump sums and severance payments to former leaders and senior officers of the State. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Irish people feel that serving and former politicians who have not yet reached the retirement age of 65 should not be in receipt of state pensions, the latest Sunday Independent/Quantum Res-earch nationwide poll reveals.

Of the 500 people questioned, 89 per cent said they were opposed to such pensions being paid out before people reach retirement age; while 59 per cent of those polled also felt the basic €90,000 salary for TDs was too high, with only 5 per cent saying it wasn't high enough. Some 36 per cent think the amount they get paid at present is sufficient.

According to the poll, the basic salary was one thing, but the other benefits -- such as expenses and pensions entitlements -- 'stuck in the craw'.

Many respondents felt ministers should take wage cuts first before asking people in the public services to accept pay sacrifices. And respond-ents were deeply distrustful of all politicians, believing they were self serving and undeserving of the wages they were currently been paid.

Analysis, see page 22

Sunday Independent

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