Friday 23 March 2018

Ahern must pay own mobile and secretarial bills

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

BERTIE Ahern faces stumping up for his own mobile-phone and secretarial bills -- worth thousands of euro a year -- under changes announced to payments to former Taoisigh.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced the changes during his state-of-the-nation address on Sunday night. "In the last few weeks I have informed former Taoisigh that entitlements, like free mobile phone and staff allowances are being withdrawn," Mr Kenny said.

The payments were designed to help former Taoisigh with administration once they leave office, and also cover the cost of computer equipment. They come on top of pensions worth as much as €150,000.

It was not yet clear last night when the cuts will actually be made, but they will be stripped of their entitlement to use VIP airport lounges at the taxpayer's expense.

Under the terms of the initiative, which was introduced in 2001, the Department of the Taoiseach pays the salary of secretarial assistants employed by former Taoisigh.

The payments have long been in Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's firing line, and the Irish Independent revealed in July that they were facing the chop. Mr Ahern has received more than €10,655 in mobile-phone expenses from the Department of the Taoiseach since he stepped down in 2008. He also claimed another €367,184 under the scheme to employ secretarial assistants.

The type of duties that the assistants are supposed to undertake include assisting with aspects of their work that remain after their period in office ends. The assistant cannot, however, assist with party or constituency work.

Brian Cowen, who only left office this year, claimed €32,279 in secretarial expenses and €296.82 in mobile-phone expenses until October. He has also claimed €1,440 for computer equipment.

Between 2001 and 2011, John Bruton claimed €269,418 for secretarial expenses, and between 2005 and 2011 he claimed €9,935 for mobile-phone expenses.

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