Tuesday 23 October 2018

O'Donoghue in line for €112,000 payoff

We've opened a can of worms -- Gormley

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

CEANN Comhairle John O'Donoghue will receive a €112,500 'golden parachute' for resigning in the wake of his expenses scandal.

The deposed Speaker of the Dail will be able to claim a salary of €100,000 for serving as a backbench TD. After two years he will be able to also claim an annual ministerial pension of around €25,000 -- rising to €67,000 when he retires from the Dail.

The severance package is designed to compensate Mr O'Donoghue for dropping from a salary of €212,500 as Ceann Comhairle to €100,000 as a TD.

The extent of the generous payoff is certain to fuel further public anger over the deepening politicians' pay controversy.

As it raged yesterday, the Greens said they intended to make the reform of the discredited Dail expenses regime a key plank of the coalition's programme for government negotiations.

However, the party's ministers are being forced to reveal details of their own travel expenses -- despite preaching about transparency since coming to power two years ago.

Ministers John Gormley and Eamon Ryan are only releasing details of their expenses claims after a series of parliamentary questions from opposition TDs and Freedom of Information Act requests from the Irish Independent in the wake of the spending scandal.

They claimed last night that they were voluntarily preparing to provide their expenses details in the coming weeks -- but haven't done so to date.

Following the announcement of the Ceann Comhairle's imminent resignation, Mr Gormley yesterday admitted all ministers' expenses would reveal "anomalies and excesses".

He said an overhaul of the system should involve "more openness and transparency".

"I think what we have done here is opened up a can of worms, because quite frankly, if you were to do a trawl of all ministers, admittedly John O'Donoghue is probably in a league of his own, but you will find anomalies and you will find excesses," he said.

The Department of Finance last night confirmed Mr O'Donoghue would be entitled to the severance pay because the office of the Ceann Comhairle is designated as a ministerial office for such purposes.

His spokesman was unable to confirm last night whether Mr O'Donoghue would accept the severance pay, or voluntarily decline it. Fine Gael TD Denis Naughton said the revelations would not make the public feel any happier about the scandal over Mr O'Donoghue's €250,000 expenses bill.

"We're back very much to a situation where the Ceann Comhairle is leaving because of what was published, yet he's getting a golden handshake," he said.

Payments

The severance payments are based on Mr O'Donoghue's salary as Ceann Comhairle, which was reduced from €125,000 to €112,500 in line with the 10pc ministerial pay cut in last October's Budget.

He will receive 75pc of his previous monthly salary for the next six months (€42,187). He will then receive 50pc of his previous monthly salary for the following 12 months (€56,250) and 25pc for the following six months (€14,062). The payments will be taxed, so Mr O'Donoghue is likely to receive around half of the €112,500 total.

However, Mr O'Donoghue will lose his ministerial car and driver once he steps down as Ceann Comhairle next week.

According to information provided by the Department of Finance, former ministers such as Mr O'Donoghue are entitled to claim a full ministerial pension if they have 10 years' service.

His full ministerial pension will be around €67,000 when he retires from the Dail. But he will be able to claim 37.5pc of this figure (€25,000 annually) once his severance payments are completed in two years' time.

Irish Independent

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