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Wednesday 21 November 2018

Former Tanaiste McDowell gives his pensions to charity

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE former Tanaiste, Michael McDowell, has disclosed that he donates his entire State pension to charity, as new figures show that he received what appeared to be an unexpected pension windfall of €143,000 last year.

Due to a mistake by the Department of Finance, Mr McDowell apparently received the biggest political pension of former office holders last year, according to figures that were released on Friday.

Mr McDowell, a former justice minister, received a pension of €173,683 in 2011 due to a back payment.

This included a €142,877 lump sum, which he was owed because the department had underpaid his pension over four years, and a pension of €31,435 for 2010.

Mr McDowell said this weekend that he and his wife, Professor Niamh Brennan, decided to donate his pensions to charity more than a year after he left politics.

"Since 2009, we agreed that everything I got by way of pension we would give to charity," he said. "Since then, I have been paying everything due to me on foot of these pensions to charity."

Mr McDowell said he now donates the money on a yearly basis to a number of charities -- both Irish and foreign -- which he declined to name.

He draws two pensions as a former attorney-general and former minister. In the three years since he decided to donate his pensions, the charities are likely to have shared more than €200,000.

Mr McDowell is one of several former ministers who chose to give their pensions to charity, rather than handing them back to the Exchequer. Michael Noonan, the Minister for Finance, has said he donates his ministerial pension -- about €31,000 -- to two charities each month.

Other members of the Government who receive ministerial pensions have surrendered them to the State, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

The State paid out €4.1m in ministerial pensions last year, according to the figures in the Department of Finance accounts. The list showed for the first time which politicians surrendered portions of their pensions. Only 27 chose to do so, collectively giving back €178,600 to the Exchequer.

While Mr McDowell occupied the top slot because of the departmental error, the former President Mary Robinson came in second with her pension of €139,496. She voluntarily surrendered €15,499.

Albert Reynolds received the highest ministerial pension at €99,681, followed by John Bruton, the former Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, who received €91,446. Bertie Ahern, the former Taoiseach, surrendered €14,600 of his €83,000. Michael Woods, the former environment minister, surrendered €4,100 of his €64,100.

Those who did not surrender their pensions included Brian Cowen, the former Taoiseach, who received a pension of €79,738.

Padraig Flynn, the former minister who featured in the Mahon tribunal on planning corruption, did not surrender any of his €47,800.

The European Commissioner Maura Geoghegan-Quinn surrendered her pension of almost €60,000.

Michael D Higgins, the President, also surrendered €6,600 -- which was almost €1,000 more than the pension he actually received.

Junior finance minister Brian Hayes said yesterday that the State pension scheme that saw a total of €15m paid out to all former office-holders last year will be reviewed before the Budget. He added that the scheme needed to be reformed.

Sunday Independent

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