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Ex-ministers will walk away with €90,000 severance payoffs

GOVERNMENT ministers who lost their jobs and seats will still qualify for severance payments worth almost €90,000 each -- despite Fine Gael's plan to abolish them.

Under legislation introduced in 1992, ex-ministers get severance payments for two years to compensate them for the loss of their ministerial salary or their junior ministerial salary.

Fine Gael plans to abolish these ministerial severance payments, but ministers who lost their seats in the general election would legally be entitled to receive them until he necessary legislation was passed.

Mary Coughlan, Mary Hanafin and Pat Carey would be eligible to claim severance payments worth around €88,000 each. Ms Coughlan's severance payment would be slightly higher because of her higher salary as Tanaiste.

Former Green Party cabinet ministers John Gormley, Eamon Ryan and former junior minister Ciaran Cuffe and Mary White would also qualify for severance payments.

However, Mr Gormley and Mr Ryan have promised to give their severance payments to charity and to the Green Party. Former Fianna Fail ministers who held their seats won't be taking severance payments -- due to a new policy introduced by party leader Micheal Martin.

He gave up his €88,000 severance payment after it became an issue during the election campaign and ruled that all Fianna Fail TDs who were re-elected should do likewise.

Those falling into this category include Brian Lenihan, Brendan Smith, Eamon O Cuiv and Billy Kelleher.

But Fianna Fail ministers who did not run for re-election will also be able to claim severance payments -- a fact which has annoyed some grassroots members.

After the wipe out of Fianna Fail in the Sligo-North Leitrim constituency, a senior Fianna Fail organiser in the area hit out at former party ministers such as Dermot Ahern, Noel Dempsey and Batt O'Keeffe for deserting the party by refusing to contest the election.

The constituency's public relations officer Seamus Kilgannon said: "They just packed up their wallets and sailed into the sunset."

Mr Kilgannon said it had got up the noses of the grassroots that when the pressure got tough, former ministers, who owed it to Fianna Fail to stay and fight, walked away.

Irish Independent