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Friday 19 January 2018

Garret loses state car but gains secretary

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

FORMER Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald is to get a new secretary at the taxpayers' expense after his previous assistant was involved in an unfair dismissals case.

Brian Cowen also has a budget set aside by the Department of Finance to hire assistants.

Although both men are going to lose their right to a state car and driver, they have not lost another perk of office.

The Department of Finance has budgeted €134,000 this year to hire secretaries for both men.

Former Taoisigh are allowed to employ two secretarial assistants for five years from the date they leave office and one secretary after the five-year period has elapsed.

The Department of the Taoiseach confirmed the budget for providing secretaries to ex-Taoisigh was going up from €166,000 last year to €300,000 this year.

The department said Mr Cowen would be entitled to avail of the scheme -- and a spokesman said Mr FitzGerald had indicated he would avail of the scheme this year "having not done so for a number of years".

Mr FitzGerald was sued for unfair dismissal last year by his former secretary Sharon Kelly. The case was settled, with Ms Kelly's solicitor saying she was happy it was resolved.

The Department of the Taoiseach refused to say at the time if taxpayers' money had been used to settle the case, saying there was a confidentiality clause in the settlement.

The cost of providing a secretary to Mr FitzGerald has reached over €300,000 since 2001. And former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has claimed €230,000 under the scheme since he stepped down in May 2008. He is also entitled to the services of a secretary and a parliamentary assistant as a backbench TD.

Irish Independent

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