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Backbench pensions bonanza: €50,000 a year for life

A RAFT of backbench TDs who have never held a ministerial job can look forward to political pensions of around €50,000 every year for the rest of the lives.

Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show the former politicians will enjoy annual pensions significantly higher than the average wage.

Some 23 former TDs and senators who were never cabinet or junior ministers will get around €50,000 or more, while 45 TDs and senators will enjoy a retirement cushioned by €40,000 or more per year.

This money will be paid out every year to politicians for the rest of their lives and does not include severance payment lump sums paid out in the last year, after a large number of TDs retired or lost their seats.

It is the first time all political pensions -- including rank and file TDs and senators, as well as ministers and Taoisigh -- have been compiled. They include:

Former Fianna Fail TD and senator GV Wright -- who admitted receiving donations from controversial lobbyist Frank Dunlop, and who was convicted of drink driving after knocking a woman down on his way home from Leinster House -- who gets around €51,000 a year.

- Former Independent Kerry South TD Jackie Healy-Rae, who will receive €42,119 a year.

- Fine Gael's Liam T Cosgrave, currently fighting corruption charges, also gets €55,000 a year.

Mr Wright and Mr Cosgrave served in government-appointed positions in the Seanad, which entitles them to some pension rights, called secretarial rights, similar to a junior minister -- even though they never had a ministerial job. Another big earner is Ben Briscoe. The former Fianna Fail Lord Mayor of Dublin amassed a pension worth €57,696 over 37 years in the Dail.

Earlier this month, Budget 2012 included a number of cuts and charges for struggling families such as the €100 household charge, and child benefit cuts.

The new details on political pensions emerged after public uproar over the generous payments given to former office holders, such as former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, who currently get €152,332 and €151,062 respectively.

The disclosure of the generous backbench pensions is bound to add to the controversy over how our politicians are rewarded financially.

Pressure of public opinion has already forced Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin to tax ministerial pensions over €100,000. However, several backbenchers will have had their pensions boosted because they chaired special Dail committees.

Many of the TDs and senators are getting pensions while working in other jobs, such as Press Ombudsman John Horgan, who as a former Labour TD and senator gets €28,244.

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A number of former senators are also enjoying lucrative pensions. These include:

Mary Hanafin's father Des, who gets €37,000 per year and her brother John, who gets €16,000 per year.

Former Fianna Fail senator Don Lydon, who changed his residence from Dublin to Donegal in 2004 and subsequently claimed €146,059 in travel and subsistence expenses, who gets €37,304.

For politicians who served in both the Dail and Seanad, the service is combined into one pension. One of those, Fianna Fail's Joe Dowling, amassed a pension worth €58,087 for serving as a TD for Dublin South-West as well as a senator between 1965 and 1981.

Some of the figures provided by the Oireachtas to the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act cover the full year of 2010, and do not take into account reductions introduced last year by former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, which would have full effect over 2011. Mr Lenihan subjected the plum pensions to a rising scale of cuts ranging from:

- 0pc on the first €12,000.

- 6pc on the next €12,000 up to €24,000.

- 9pc on the next €36,000 up to €60,000.

- 12pc on the rest above €60,000.

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