Monday 27 May 2019

€300m retirement jamboree is dished out to 99 civil servants


FORMER government secretary general Dermot McCarthy is just one of 99 top senior civil servants to retire on "maximum pension benefits" since January 2008, at an estimated total cost of almost €300m to the taxpayer -- or an average of €3m each.

A cosseted coterie of the nation's retired top civil servants, who were responsible for overseeing Ireland's calamitous demise in recent years, will benefit most from an extensive and incredibly generous system of perks, which they awarded themselves.

Over the lifetime of his pension, Mr McCarthy's retirement fund has been estimated to be worth more than €5m. Virtually all of the others who have stepped down have seen massive value added to their pensions.

According to official figures obtained by this newspaper, 13 secretaries-general have stepped down from their posts since the beginning of 2008. Between them they received pension lump sums and severance payments totalling €4.9m.

On top of this, most of them will receive an annual pension of €124,000, with Mr McCarthy and former Department of Finance boss David Doyle receiving over €140,000 for the rest of their lives.

In stark contrast to the hardship being endured by those caught in negative equity and the unemployed, those at the very top of the public service have been insulated from the hardship of the recession by an incredible series of retirement benefits, entitlements, top-ups and severance payments.

It has also emerged that since July 2005, eight of the most senior civil servants who retired from the Department of Finance shared a staggering pot of €2.4m in pension lump sums and "special severance" payments alone.

The cost to the State of public service pensions has increased by 65 per cent in the past five years, according to figures from the Department of Finance.

The net pensions bill for retired State employees was €2.236bn last year, compared to a comparable bill of €1.35bn in 2005.

Retired civil servants like Mr McCarthy should be taxed and barred from any appointments, Fine Gael TD Derek Keating said this weekend.

He has written to the Taoiseach, requesting that consideration be given to a new tax on such large amounts of money being paid to officials in the public sector.

"I am furious at this," Mr Keating said. "What sort of message is this sending?

"Place yourself in the shoes of a young family trying to manage a mortgage or the workers who received bad news in Talk Talk this week."

Mr McCarthy was yesterday described by Fianna Fail national executive member and developer Jerry Beades as "the grand architect of all that went wrong in this country".

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Beades said most people would not realise that Mr McCarthy's "sticky fingers" were all over the disastrous benchmarking, social partnership and the bank guarantee.

James Hamilton, who has served as Director of Public Prosecutions for 12 years, is one of a host of top-level State employees set to retire with their full benefits ahead of pension cuts next February.

Tax experts say the move at this time could save more than €12,000 a year on his pension.

By retiring this year, Mr Hamilton's pension and lump sum will be calculated on his salary of almost €240,000.

If he stayed beyond February 2012, his pension and lump sum would be calculated on the basis of his new reduced salary of €215,590.

It has been confirmed that up to 55 senior civil servants are in line for gold-plated exit packages worth up to €634,000 if they retire by February, when the punitive new pension rules will kick in.

Sunday Independent

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