Tuesday 23 July 2019

Minister Brendan Howlin insists he can't 'exclude' any former politician from receiving ministerial pension top-up

Brendan Howlin
Brendan Howlin

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has insisted he cannot “exclude” any former politician from receiving a top-up to their ministerial pensions.

Mr Howlin today admitted that senior politicians were paid too much in the run-up to the last general election but that pensions being drawn down are protected property rights under the constitution.

The Labour Party minister was responding to the public disquiet over revelations that former ministers such as Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern are in line for pension top-ups of up to €1680 over the next three years. The payments were revealed by the Sunday Times.

But Mr Howlin’s most senior official Robert Watt today pointed out that the net size of the top-up is significantly less when the pension levy and marginal rate of tax is taken into account.

Speaking earlier, Mr Howlin said he does not have the mechanisms available to him to block the pension top-ups that will be introduced as a result of the introduction of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

“The problem is pensions are based on the end of career salary. As you know, under our constitution, pensions are preserved property rights. I can no more take somebody’s pension than I can arbitrarily decide to take somebody’s house,” Mr Howlin said.

“The Supreme Court has determined that we can’t even make adverse findings against people, that’s not our constitutional role.  We aren’t allowed do that. Much less can I make a monetary decision that would adversely affect anybody, I wouldn’t have the constitutional right to do so,” he added.

Mr Howlin pointed out that Taoiseach Enda Kenny earns 40pc less than former taoisigh, while he himself earns 35pc less than his predecessor.

“People were paid too much in the run-up to the last election in terms of senior politicians, senior administrators. We’ve dramatically reduced that,” the Wexford TD said.

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