Wednesday 22 November 2017

Taxpayers footing €50,000 bill for taoisigh secretaries

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FOUR former Taoisigh are getting a three-month stay of execution on the removal of their secretaries -- which will be paid for by the taxpayer at an extra cost of €50,000.

Bertie Ahern, along with Brian Cowen, John Bruton and Albert Reynolds, were availing of a range of perks as former office holders.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced in his state of the nation address at the start of December that he had told his predecessors that these entitlements were being cut.

The perks of free mobile phones, computer facilities and access to airport VIP lounges went from January 1. But the secretarial allowance is continuing to be paid until the end of March, at a cost of an extra €50,000.

The extension is understood to be happening in order to give the staff concerned notice and to allow them to find new jobs.

It will also allow the former Taoisigh to make new arrangements to pay them if they are keeping the secretaries on.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail headquarters yesterday staked a claim on ownership of Mr Ahern's St Luke's office in Drumcondra, where his secretary is based.

Mr Ahern still has an office in St Luke's, the famed hub of the infamous Drumcondra Mafia.

Ahead of the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report, expected next week, Fianna Fail said the building was owned by the party "nationally".

The building is believed to be worth more than €500,000, even in a depressed property market, but the precise ownership is unclear. It is held in trust for the party organisation and the trustees are all associates of Mr Ahern.

However, Fianna Fail general secretary Sean Dorgan said yesterday St Luke's was owned by the party on a national level.

"The Dublin Central organisation is on record as saying that it is owned by the Fianna Fail organisation," he said. He thought the national party organisation owned St Luke's "and I think they are on record as having said that".

St Luke's was bought in 1988 for IR£56,000 and turned into a constituency office, with an apartment overhead where Mr Ahern occasionally lived.

Fianna Fail councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, the only elected representative left in the constituency, has sought a report on the ownership of the property.


Despite having no less than 21 cumainn or branches registered in Dublin Central -- the most for any constituency in the capital -- the local organisation only raised €40 for the Fianna Fail national collection this year -- an average of €1.90 per cumann.

Fianna Fail's ard fheis programme shows a substantial drop in the national collection from about €320,000 in 2009 and 2010 to €181,000 in 2011.

But the takings from the Super Draw increased from €468,000 in 2010 to €532,000 in 2011.

Fianna Fail justice spokes-man Dara Calleary also said Mr Ahern and his successor as Taoiseach, Mr Cowen, would be welcome at the ard fheis.

"They are being invited. We are not going to invite them and not welcome them if they accept it," he said.

Irish Independent

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