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Devout Catholic's modest semi-d home belies his status

HE was the most powerful civil servant in the State during the boom years, but Dermot McCarthy has never been one to flash his cash.

The 57-year-old retired from his position as secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach during the summer, with a bumper exit package worth almost €600,000.

Mr McCarthy wasn't at home when the Irish Independent called to his suburban housing estate in Castleknock, Dublin, yesterday.

The modest semi-detached house belies his lavish retirement package. The two-storey home he shares with his wife Rosemary still bears the original single-glazed windows, covered by a plain, if not frugal, net curtain.

Known as a devout Catholic, Mr McCarthy didn't let his dislike of flying stop him from attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005. He also volunteers with the St Vincent de Paul Society in the Pearse Street area.

Such work is a long way from the highest echelons of the civil service, where Mr McCarthy simultaneously held the two most senior posts in the State -- secretary general to the Government and to the Department of the Taoiseach.

Born in Dublin and educated at the CBS Synge Street and Trinity College, he joined the civil service and started off in what was then known as the Department of Industry and Commerce.

He later moved to Health and was named director of the National Economic and Social Council in 1990.

Just three years later, he was promoted to assistant secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, where he had responsibility for economic and social policy.

He served under three Taoisigh -- Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny -- but is best known for his championing of social partnership under Ahern.

While he was a skilful negotiator with the unions, social partnership was responsible for making Irish public servants among the highest paid in the world.

However, Mr McCarthy's retirement package -- which was not based on his final salary upon retiring but on his pre-pay-cut earnings -- has now shone the spotlight on his own finances.

He received a lump-sum payment of €428,011 and a special severance payment of €142,670 -- on top of his annual pension of €142,670.

Irish Independent