'Disgraceful' TDs still cling to teacher posts and perks
TDs and Senators were last night branded a "disgrace" for clinging on to teaching posts after it was revealed they have received almost €315,000 in leave payments in just five years.
The figures for payments to politicians on "Oireachtas leave" from teaching jobs between 2003 and 2007 come in the wake of public fury over Budget plans to cut teaching positions in schools which will increase the pupil-teacher ratios.
Under an agreement with the Department of Education, teachers who become TDs or senators are automatically paid the difference between their teaching salary and the cost of employing a temporary replacement.
For example, if a teacher earned €60,000 a year before becoming a TD and was replaced by a substitute earning €50,000, the newly elected member of the Dail would be paid €10,000.
With no time limit on the payment, some politicians avail of it decades after taking office.
Politicians automatically receive the payment unless they tell the Department of Education they do not want it.
And even if they do not accept the payment, politicians who hold on to their teaching jobs continue to keep their pension entitlements.
Last night the politicians were heavily criticised by National Parents Council director Tommy Walshe.
"It is a disgrace that they are keeping their positions. I would be 100pc in favour of politicians giving them up, especially as we are set to lose teachers due to Budget cuts," Mr Walshe said. "It is shocking that people would hang on to two or three jobs in times like this."
Currently five of the 28 "teacher politicians" receive the payment, in contrast to others who have resigned or retired.
They are: Fianna Fail junior minister Tony Killeen; backbench party colleague Aine Brady; Independent TDs Joe Behan and Tony Gregory, and Fine Gael Senator Joe O'Reilly.
Four other politicians are signed up to the scheme but have opted not to receive payment.
They are: Fianna Fail's Maire Hoctor, Margaret Conlon and Frank Fahey and Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan.
A further six politicians have declined the payment but are holding on to their positions and continue to rack up their full pension entitlements.
They are: Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, Social and Family Affairs Minster Mary Hanafin, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and Labour TDs Tommy Broughan, Roisin Shortall and Brendan Howlin.
Over the past five years 17 politicians have taken payments -- on top of Dail salaries.
According to the figures, Labour's defence spokesman Brian O'Shea clocked up the highest payment of all TDs on leave from their positions in primary schools.
Last night the Waterford TD -- who retired from teaching two years ago -- defended the €49,527 payout insisting the arrangement was in operation when he entered the Dail and allowed politicians some security.
"The most attractive thing was that the job was still there for me," he said.
Former chief whip Tom Kitt, who has retired from teaching, was the second highest beneficiary in the primary school category -- clocking up €44,983 in payments during that time. The Dublin South TD refused to comment on the issue when contacted.
In the post-primary sector Independent TD Tony Gregory received the highest payment, clocking up €27,223 between 2003 and 2007. He declined to comment on the matter.
Last night Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes insisted it was "sensible" for those receiving money to give it up voluntarily after winning two elections to the Dail.
Labour education spokesman Ruairi Quinn said there was merit in looking at the period of time that people could avail of the payment but said people should have a right to return to a secure job.
Primary and secondary school teacher unions last night said they supported the scheme but that a limit of between 10 and 12 years should be applied.
The Department of Education last night said the system would not be changed.