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€308,000 golden goodbye as Ahern quits the Dail

JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern will be able to retire with a total package worth €308,000 -- thanks to a law introduced by former finance minister Charlie McCreevy.

His annual pension of €129,000 alone will be worth more the basic €92,672 salary to which he would have been entitled if elected as a backbench opposition TD at the next General Election.

Mr Ahern (55) is expected to receive a ministerial pension worth almost €75,000 per year; a TD's pension worth around €54,000 per year; a pension lump sum of around €162,000 and a termination lump sum of approximately €17,000.

The total package is worth around €308,000 over the next year.

Mr Ahern said yesterday he had not made any inquiries about what he would receive on leaving office.

"I know I'm entitled to a full pension, both TD and ministerial," he said.

Mr Ahern also pointed out that he had given up his legal practice in Dundalk when he went into politics.

"I've no practice to go back to. I didn't go into politics for the money," he added.

But if Mr Ahern had been forced into opposition after the next election, he would only have been entitled to a basic TD's salary because long-service payments are to be abolished.

Legislation has also been introduced, so that after the general election sitting TDs will no longer be able to claim part of their ministerial pensions.

Mr Ahern would have not been able to claim his TD or ministerial pension for another 10 years (worth €129,000 annually) if Mr McCreevy had not introduced an exemption for certain TDs and ministers in 2004.

Back then, the Government was introducing legislation to raise the retirement age for new public sector workers from 60 to 65. But Mr McCreevy said the requirement to face re-election meant that Oireachtas members were "different" from the general body of public servants.

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He therefore exempted TDs and ministers elected before April 1, 2004 -- such as Mr Ahern -- from the legislation.

It meant that they would continue to be able to claim full ministerial pensions at 50, whereas TDs elected after that date would have to wait until they were 65.

Mr McCreevy said it was "entirely consistent and reasonable" to raise the retirement age for new TDs and senators because "individuals going forward for Dail or Seanad election for the first time in future will be aware of the new age limits and will be in a position to take this into account in considering their own circumstances".

Mr Ahern is entitled to a ministerial pension worth 60pc of the €125,000 ministerial salary he received before the public sector pay cutbacks.

His TD's pension is based on 50pc of his separate TD's salary and is boosted by the fact that Mr Ahern served as chair of an Oireachtas committee for several years.

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