Sunday 16 June 2019

Ministers on €140,000 in triple pension deal

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

TWO senior ministers who held on to their teaching posts are each clocking up three pensions worth upwards of €140,000 a year in total.

Ministers Micheal Martin and Mary Hanafin will benefit from ministerial, TD and teacher's pensions.

And another nine TDs are filling two pension pots. They each stand to get upwards of €60,000 a year in pensions, an Irish Independent investigation can reveal.

Regulations allow for ministers and TDs to continue paying into their teacher pension fund, while a temporary teacher is employed in their school position.

That means the State has to provide a contribution not just for the politician's final pension but must also pay towards the pension of the teacher who is substituting for the TD or minister.

In effect, one teaching post can end up costing taxpayers two pension payouts.

The investigation comes as pressure increases on TDs over the number of financial benefits they enjoy while in office.

These have recently been most particularly focused on ministerial pensions and long-service increments.

Remaining on leave as a teacher ensures that TDs and senators can keep their job open job while their full pension entitlements continue to accrue, regardless of how long they are absent from the classroom.

Both Mr Martin and Ms Hanafin are still employing temporary teachers to fill their permanent positions.

Mr Martin left his teaching post 20 years ago, while Ms Hanafin took secondment 12 years ago.

Due to their high political office they stand to get a TD's pension worth in the region of €53,000, and also a ministerial pension worth about €70,000.

But on top of this they will get a teacher's pension worth several thousand euro depending on the amount they continue to pay into it while on 'Oireachtas leave'.

In Ms Hanafin's case, with 17 years teaching experience, she would be entitled to around €12,500 on retiring her position.

However, if she continued to pay into her pension fund at a rate of 6.5pc of gross salary, she could eventually be entitled to upwards of €20,000.

Mr Martin is still con- tributing to his teaching pension fund, but it is not known whether Ms Hanafin is, and if so, at what rate.

Ministers can only pay into a pension fund based on their actual years of teaching. But unlike ministers, TDs and senators can pay into a pension fund that sees their salary increments increasing year-on-year, despite the fact that they are no longer teaching.

Some TDs such as Noel Dempsey, Finian McGrath and Enda Kenny resigned their position only after they crossed the lucrative 20-year pension threshold.

Former Green leader Trevor Sargent, who resigned his teaching position during his second Dail term, is the only TD to resign without his pension rights.


But another nine teachers-turned-TDs still remain on 'Oireachtas leave' and stand to ratchet up generous pensions.

Last night, Independent Senator Joe O'Toole, who negotiated the secondment terms and conditions for teachers, defended the entitlements of teachers-turned-TDs.

He stressed that people take a huge financial risk when they put themselves forward for election and it was only fair that systems be put in place to provide them with security. The senator claimed it was "scandalous" that many sectors still failed to put a system in place to encourage people into public service.

Many of the teacher-turned-TDs such as Aine Brady, Micheal Martin and Roisin Shortall, argued that their school could lose the post if they resigned their position.

However, this was flatly contradicted by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) which claimed decisions to cut teacher numbers are based on enrolment figures.

Secondment status has "no bearing" on whether a school retains a teacher or not, the union said.

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