Fionnan Sheahan

Saturday 2 August 2014

The great legislator chooses to ignore spirit of this law

Fionnan Sheahan

Published 23/05/2014|02:30

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CEO and Founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation Jonathan Irwin  and his wife and co-founder Senator Mary-Ann O'Brien with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
CEO and Founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation Jonathan Irwin and his wife and co-founder Senator Mary-Ann O'Brien with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
CEO and founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation Jonathan Irwin with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
CEO and founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation Jonathan Irwin with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

MERE mortals don't get to pick and choose where their taxes go to. But Alan Shatter has no compunction about deciding himself how their taxes are spent.

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Mr Shatter was a member of the Government which passed legislation to abolish ministerial severance payments. This became law on April 12.

The genesis of the law was public revulsion at ministers walking away from office with substantial payments of up to two years' pay

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin included the proposal to abolish the payments in legislation tidying up a wide range of political allowances.

The intention was to have the abolition of the severance payments in place by the time of the European elections, the appointment of the European Commissioner and the Cabinet reshuffle which was going to result in a number of ministers leaving office.

None of them were going to get a payoff at the taxpayer's expense. The statutory instrument to give effect to this was being prepared by Mr Howlin's officials when Mr Shatter unexpectedly resigned on May 7. His departure during the interregnum period between the passing of the law and the signing of the order meant that Mr Shatter became the last minister to be entitled to a payoff.

But the intention of the Government that he served in up until two weeks ago was for office holders not to continue receiving money on their departure.

Surely the great legislator himself understands the principle of adhering to the spirit of a law?

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and several ministers were clearly of the view that the former minister should not accept the payments.

However, Mr Shatter was determined to put his own stamp on the payments by deciding he would take the money and give it to charity.

While not in breach of the law, he certainly can't be seen to be fully embracing what he himself voted for as a TD.

Nobody is saying the Jack and Jill Foundation isn't a worthy cause, but Ordinary Joes don't get to be so benevolent with taxpayers' money.

Government ministers said the controversy was now dealt with and there wouldn't be too much fallout over his decision.

But there was also an admission in Fine Gael that the dragging out of the question around whether he would accept the payment or not had overshadowed the final days of its election campaign.

"It was on every second door for the last few nights. I think it's a non-issue. But he could have dealt with it earlier," a minister told the Irish Independent.

Irish Independent

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