Wednesday 21 February 2018

FG 'five-a-side club' pushing for bigger cuts to political pensions

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A GROUP of Fine Gael backbenchers – dubbed the "five-a-side club" – is pushing for deeper cuts in pensions for politicians and senior civil servants, and wants to legislate for cutting bankers' pensions.

The membership of the group has swollen to nearer 15 and it has drafted its own bill calling for pensions over €150,000 to be halved, with anything over €100,000 cut by a fifth.

The bill, seen by the Irish Independent, also wants to cut the pensions of bankers in bailed-out financial institutions.

Successive governments have said they cannot touch bankers' pensions because they have the same rights as property under the constitution, but the group feels this can be overcome.

Members of the group have already met with representatives from the Attorney General's office, and the Government Chief Whip's Office.

The bill calls for pensions up to €12,000 to be exempted, with cuts of 6pc on anything over that amount but under €24,000; 9pc between €24,000 and €60,000; and 12pc from amounts between €60,000 and €100,000.

The recent public-sector pay deal cut pensions, with anything under €32,500 exempted, and a sliding scale or progressive cuts applied to anything above that.

Higher-end pensions of around €150,000 – such as those given to former Taoisigh Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern – were cut by around 5pc, but the Fine Gael group's cuts would be much deeper.

The group previously caused tensions with Labour after publicly criticising public-sector pay increments.

And although it is unlikely their bill will be adopted by Government, some in Fine Gael see the group as useful in marking out territory where the party could push its own policy.

For example, group member Eoghan Murphy, a TD for Dublin South-East, is credited with highlighting the issue of public-sector allowances in recent months.

Among the other members of the group are Kildare North's Anthony Lawlor; Pat Deering from Carlow-Kilkenny; Brendan Griffin from Kerry South; Noel Harrington from Cork South-West; Paul Connaughton from Galway West; and Sean Conlan from Cavan-Monaghan.

However, those within the group claim it has now expanded to include almost 15 members in a "loose arrangement".

Irish Independent

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