Monday 22 January 2018

Powerful civil servant whose huge pension caused outcry


Sam Smyth

A DOUBLE whammy of appointments made Dermot McCarthy the most powerful civil servant of his generation.

A champion of social partnership, he enjoyed a stratospheric rise to the summit of the civil service and became secretary general to the Department of the Taoiseach in July 2001 -- just 18 months after he was appointed secretary general to the government.

The Dublin-born mandarin was a key player in shaping government policy for the following decade.

But according to the report, by the time he departed there had been a collapse in morale among the department's staff, and the malfunctioning senior and middle management.

During his time as secretary general, Mr McCarthy served three Taoisigh.

Staff who worked alongside him say he was well regarded, had a formidable intellect and was never known to lose his temper.

The 57-year-old was most associated with social partnership and benchmarking.

However, he was also in situ for the banking collapse, the subsequent recession and the EU/IMF bailout.

At one stage his annual salary was €285,000. But this dropped back in the later stages to €208,000 as a result of a series of pay cuts. After he retired last July, it emerged he received a hugely generous golden parachute.

In addition to an annual pension of €142,670, Mr McCarthy also received a once-off lump sum of €428,011 and a separate special severance payment of €142,670.

The disclosure of the size of the package prompted a public outcry and led to the government making changes that would see future secretary generals retire on less generous terms.


Last September, Independent TD Shane Ross described Mr McCarthy's pension as "salt in the wound" of ordinary people whose pensions had been plundered by the government.

He told the Dail that Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore should ask Mr McCarthy to hand back the lump-sum element of the deal because of the "enormous pension" he was set to receive.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to do the same, saying: "All I can say is that we're going to make changes about this that will reflect our new government's attitude towards this kind of situation."

Despite the enormity of Mr McCarthy's income, much has been made of his apparently frugal lifestyle.

In particular, it has been noted that he lived in an understated two-storey semi-detached home in Castleknock, Co Dublin, with net curtains and not the slightest sign of extravagance.

Irish Independent

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