Taoiseach rejects plea for pension protection from judges
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny yesterday publicly rejected calls from judges to protect them from higher taxation on their pensions by declaring they would not get special treatment.
Mr Kenny made his remarks in the wake of a secret meeting with the Chief Justice, John L Murray, last week at which judges' concerns about the issue of new tax treatment of pension funds was raised.
Sources had previously indicated Mr Kenny was not impressed with the issue being raised with him.
And he declared yesterday he did not see the need for special treatment for judges.
"I see in the order of priorities where children are disadvantaged, where there are clearly exceptional priorities that should be dealt with by any government. In so far as where we can deal with them, we will," he said.
In last December's budget, a figure of €2.3m was set as the maximum pension fund allowable for tax purposes. This could see judges with pension funds worth more than €2.3m facing a large tax liability.
Speaking after an Energy Symposium in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, yesterday, Mr Kenny insisted last Thursday's meeting with the Chief Justice was "not unusual".
"It is normal process that the Taoiseach of the day meets with the Chief Justice.
"There is nothing unusual in it. While I don't want to talk about the details of the meeting, it covered a whole range of areas, one of which I have seen reported as being central to the discussion, when in fact it wasn't," he said.
Judges have been protected from pay cuts so far by a clause in the Constitution. But now the Government is pressing ahead with plans for a referendum -- possibly by the end of the year -- to give it the power to reduce their salaries.
Mr Kenny repeated there was a proposal for a referendum which would give the government power to reduce the salaries of judges -- which would be matter for the Government to consider in due course.
The Programme for Government has stated that priority would be given to a referendum to amend the Constitution to allow the salaries of judges to be cut in restricted circumstances as part of general cuts across the public sector.
It has emerged just 19 of the country's 148 judges have opted to make a voluntary contribution in lieu of the public service pension levy.