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Monday 12 November 2018

Pensioners hit if free passport scheme gets axe

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

WIDESPREAD cuts in foreign affairs spending could even hit the country's already cash-strapped pensioners.

According to the Bord Snip blueprint, around €4.6m could be clawed back from pensioners by removing the free passport scheme for over-65s.

But developing countries, hard-pressed Irish emigrants and the costly embassy network are destined to bear the real brunt of the €42m worth of savings proposed in the controversial report.

The main proposals are:



  • Cuts to overseas missions -- €15m.
  • Reduction in overseas aid -- €14.8m.
  • Cuts to support for Irish emigrant services -- €1m.
  • Staff cuts -- 65 posts.


The expensive embassy and consulate network was not spared by UCD economist Colm McCarthy. A "significant proportion" of the department's expenditure goes on overseas missions, most of which were small, it was outlined.

The group recommended the network of embassies and consulates be trimmed back from 76 to 55, with the cutting of 65 posts.

Targeted

The levels of pay were also targeted. The ambassador posts should be routinely graded at the civil service principal officer level, equivalent to €86,000 and upwards, with just three or four ambassadors paid at the assistant secretary level of €131,000 and upwards.

Currently, there are 41 ambassadors earning more than €131,000 a year.

The foreign service allowance should also be trimmed back by 12.5pc, the report said.

It also recommends "synergies" between the department and agencies such as Enterprise Ireland or Tourism Ireland.

Further reductions were also outlined for Ireland's overseas aid budget, which has already witnessed a €196.8m cut in light of the downturn.

If the recommendations are followed, the overseas development aid of €571m, supplemented by an additional €125m from other departments, will be trimmed back by €14.8m.

Aid body Trocaire warned that more cutbacks would have a "minimal impact" on Ireland's financial stability, yet a devastating effect on the world's poor.

"The report's recommendations are totally unacceptable," Eamonn Meehan, deputy director of Trocaire, warned.

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