Sunday 17 December 2017

So much for austerity -- Dail overrun costs to set us back €13.9m

Severance packages and pensions make up bulk of bill

JOHN DRENNAN

The cost of retired TDs and ministers' pay-offs and pensions are so extensive that the Dail has been forced to bring in a supplementary estimate to pay for them.

Originally it was anticipated that it would cost almost €113m to run the Oireachtas and pay the salaries and expenses of staff, current members and retired members.

However, while austerity may stalk the rest of the country, the Sunday Independent has discovered that the taxpayer will have to fork out an additional €13,936,000 to the predicted bill of €112,983,000 to cover the expenses of our TDs and ministers.

The Supplementary Estimate, which has been put through on the QT, reveals that the vast bulk of this increase is required for "allowances to or in respect of former members" (€4.582m) while €8.771m is required for the "grant-in-aid in respect of the delicately titled 'Ciste Pinsean Thithe an Oireachtas' fund".

The extra payments of €13.936m mean the total bill for allowances and pensions to former members of Leinster House for this year will come to a whopping €25m -- or more than twice the original estimate.

It is believed the main source of this additional expenditure consists of pension payments that arose as a consequence of the revolutionary clear-out of the previous FF/PD regime.

In an unprecedented pensions bonanza two former Taoisigh, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern, retired while a swathe of ministers were either rejected by the electorate or retired before the electorate got the chance to reject them.

Those who experienced this fate include Mary Harney, the uniquely unpopular former Health Minister and leader of the PDs, and ministers such as Noel Dempsey, Dermot Ahern, Mary Coughlan, Mary Hanafin, John Gormley, who led the Green Party to annihilation, Eamon Ryan and a host of lesser-known ministers.

The first-year severance package for Mr Ahern and Mr Cowen was more than €350,000 while Ms Harney is believed to have secured a package of €320,000. Former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan also received more than €300,000 and other ministers received severance packages of up to €180,000 on top of their ongoing pensions.

It is estimated that the pension and severance payments costs of the 41 FF and Green Party members of the most unpopular government in the history of the State who involuntarily lost their seats is above €5.5m.

That, however, was not the only extra payment that TDs and senators have quietly awarded themselves.

In spite of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's promises about leaner, meaner governance, payments for secretarial assistance to TDs has come in at a massive €5.283m over budget.

And though the Government has pledged to abolish the Seanad, secretarial assistance for senators is €168,000 over budget.

All the hard work that our TDs and senators are engaging in at the Dail bar has also resulted in the Dail bar and canteen coming in at €90,000 over budget.

The cost of TV coverage for publicity hungry TDs and senators is also €381,000 higher than expected.

The Supplementary Estimate also reveals that while an additional sum of €19.275m was originally required savings of €5.312m in areas such as salaries for the administration staff in Leinster House means the final over-run for 2011 will be €13.936m.

This sum represents a whopping over-run of 12.5 per cent in the cost of running the Oireachtas but, unlike our schools and hospitals, it looks as though when it comes to the pay, perks and conditions of our working -- and even more importantly retired -- TDs and senators, austerity just walked out the door.

Sunday Independent

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