Tuesday 12 November 2019

Revealed: Politicians given parachute deals valued at €8.4m

MEP, TDs and ministers benefit from scheme

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Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Dublin MEP Clare Daly is among a group of politicians to have benefited from more than €8.4m in payments from local authorities over the past five years.

Figures obtained by the Sunday Independent outline parachute payments paid to prominent TDs, Senators and Ms Daly for previously sitting on local councils.

The payments usually cushion the blow for politicians who lose their seats at a local election but more than 20 former councillors who progressed to national politics have benefited from the scheme over the past five years. Among those to benefit are two ministers. Ms Daly is the only MEP on the list.

She was paid €37,195 by Fingal County Council last year, seven years after leaving the local authority following her election as a TD. She was elected to the European Parliament in May and did not respond when contacted about the payment this weekend.

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The payments, known as gratuities, are made to long-serving former county councillors after resigning or losing their local authority seat.

In order to qualify for the payment, a former councillor must have served at least two years on a local authority. They must have reached their 50th birthday to receive it. Gratuities are paid separately to any salary but are taxable depending on individual circumstances.

A Sunday Independent investigation has found more than €8.4m has been paid out to former councillors over the past five years.

This sum includes more than €6.2m paid out to former councillors who lost or vacated their seats at this year's election.

Records obtained from local authorities show how much the councils paid politicians at the end of their council careers between 2015 and 2019.

The list also shows how some politicians received the benefit as they progressed their careers.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed is set for a €34,386 windfall for the 22 years he served on Cork County Council. He has deferred the payment until his ministerial career ends.

His Cabinet colleague Sean Canney received €38,821 from Galway County Council shortly after he was elected to the Dail in 2016. He declined to comment when contacted about the payment this weekend.

Fianna Fail's Justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan received €22,176 from Dublin City Council after he was elected to the Dail.

"During my seven years on Dublin City Council I spent all the salary I received as a councillor during those seven years on constituency and political expenses such as newsletters, office costs, and sponsorships," he said.

Offaly County Council records show Fianna Fail public expenditure spokesman Barry Cowen was paid €41,687 in 2017. He did not respond when contacted by the Sunday Independent.

Also included in the list of payments are prominent Kerry Independent TDs Michael and Danny Healy-Rae. Between them the brothers were paid a gross figure of €78,149. Michael Healy-Rae, who did not comment, was paid €36,481 in 2017 shortly after he turned 50 in recognition of his 12 years on Kerry County Council.

His brother Danny was paid €41,668 after more than 13 years on the council.

Danny Healy-Rae said he was unaware of the scheme until Kerry County Council told him he was entitled to the payment. A significant portion of this was taxed, he added.

"I never went into politics for money. If I wanted to make money I'd have stayed out of it," Mr Healy-Rae said.

A former councillor in Mayo who was found by the Standards in Public Office Commission to have been in breach of a code of conduct for elected representatives over land rezoning last year was paid €34,008.

Frank Durcan, who was on holiday in Spain when he was contacted, described the parachute payment as "peanuts" and added he was heavily taxed on the benefit.

"I was very happy to take it but I won't tell you what I did with it," he added.

A breakdown of the figures shows €2m was paid to Fianna Fail politicians in parachute payments, more than any other party.

Fine Gael politicians were paid more than €1.8m. Sinn Fein's former councillors were paid more than €1m.

* denotes preserved payments
denotes a pending payment

Total Payments across all Local Authorities: €8,414,436.49

Sunday Independent

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