Saturday 24 March 2018

MEPs left secretaries with no pensions, court told

Tim Healy

TWO former MEPs failed to submit allowance claims for two European Parliament secretaries leaving them without pensions, it has been claimed.

The President of the High Court has received information from the parliament concerning the claims that the two former MEPs, while allegedly employing two women as their secretaries/assistants, submitted assistant allowance claims for two other persons who cannot be named.

Kathleen Egan and Margaret Hackett are suing former Fianna Fail MEPs James Fitzsimons and Liam Hyland -- who retired in 2004 -- alleging the failure to claim allowances for them has left them without pensions.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns had requested information from the European Parliament arising from the claims by Ms Egan (61), Caucestown, Athboy, Co Meath, and Ms Hackett (66), Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois.

The MEPs were entitled to claim the European Parliamentary Assistance Allowance (PAA) for pension contributions for MEP assistants but had not claimed it for the women but had claimed it for two other persons, it is alleged.

The PAA was IR£8,000 per month in 1995 and rose to about €12,756 per month in 2004, Ms Egan claims.

She alleges she received no remuneration from Mr Fitzsimons while working between 1984 and 1987 as his assistant; was paid directly by him up to 2001 in alleged breach of the relevant rules and, from January 2001 to June 2004, was paid by the European Parliament.

Ms Hackett claims she worked as MEP assistant for Mr Hyland between 1994 and 2004, apart from a "temporary cessation" between June 1997 and June 1998.

She claims she was not paid between July 1994 and June 1997 for MEP assistant work, was paid by Mr Hyland between July 1998 and January 2001 in alleged breach of the relevant rules and, from January 2001 was paid by the European Parliament via accountants.

In preliminary applications to the High Court, the defendants sought an order striking out the actions. It was claimed both women were bound by a July 2004 settlement of industrial relations proceedings which, it is alleged, covers the claims. The women deny this.

It was alleged Mr Fitzsimons had applied between July 1984 and December 2000, and Mr Hyland between July 1994 and December 2000, setting out the names of two others whom they named as their MEP assistants.

It was indicated documents might be provided by the parliament if they were requested by an Irish court.

When the matter was mentioned yesterday, Mr Justice Kearns said he received a response which referred to confidentiality issues. This raised questions as to how the motion should proceed.

The judge said he would not do anything with the material received prior to resuming the motion hearing in July. The case continues.

Irish Independent

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