The new minister and the €35k retirement cheque

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed says he'll defer 'retirement gratuity'

Newly appointed Minister Michael Creed Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Cormac McQuinn

Newly appointed minister Michael Creed is clinging to a payment worth almost €35,000 that dates back to his time as a county councillor a decade ago.

Mr Creed is among several TDs in line for lucrative payments of a combined €335,000 from local authorities on which they served as councillors.

The Irish Independent can reveal that Mr Creed was in line to be paid a so-called 'retirement gratuity' that Cork County Council has confirmed is worth €34,386.

However, Mr Creed said last night he would seek to have the payment deferred for the duration of his ministerial career.

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Mr Creed is among at least eight TDs - mostly new deputies - who are in line for the taxable gratuity payment, the value of which is based on their number of years as a councillor.

It is paid to those representatives who are aged 50 years old and over after they leave the local authority - even if their reason for leaving is because they have won a seat in the Dáil, where a TD's salary is €87,000.

One new TD set to get the payment this year, AAA-PBP's Mick Barry, has said that it should be "scrapped" and that he will use the €29,000 due to be paid to him for local causes and campaigns.

Appointed as Agriculture Minister on Friday, Mr Creed is now in line for a salary of more than €150,000.

The Irish Independent asked if he would be taking the gratuity payment and if the payment was appropriate.

Last night, he said: "I intend contacting Cork County Council and seeking a deferral of the payment.

"This is due to my recent appointment to Cabinet. I will be seeking a deferral for the duration of my period in ministerial office."

The payments to the TDs, including Mr Creed and Mr Barry, are among more than €550,000 in retirement gratuities going to former county, city and town councillors this year.

Cork North Central TD Mr Barry said he believed that the payment was "fair enough" when a councillor loses their seat.

But he added: "A councillor who becomes a TD is like a worker in a job who's got a promotion and I don't see why people should get significant gratuity payments when they've just walked into a better job."

Since 2002, councillors have been paid an annual salary known as a 'representational payment'. This is around €16,700 for what is considered a part-time job - although many councillors argue that they essentially work full-time.

The highest payment is set to be made to Fianna Fáil's Eugene Murphy, who put the sum that he will be getting from Roscommon County Council at around €59,000 for his years of service since 1985.

The new TD said he would be donating €12,500 to local causes, though he had not intended on making that public.

"I never made money out of politics," he told the Irish Independent, adding that he estimates he has donated around €70,000 to community groups in his area over the years.

Of the retirement gratuity, he said: "We don't get a pension but I do accept it's a very substantial amount of money, particularly with the state of the country now, and that's why I'm donating so much of the money back."

He said he would use some of the cash for his election costs, as did his party colleague in Louth, Declan Breathnach, who is in line for a payment of €58,700.

Mr Breathnach pointed out that when he first joined the council in 1991 there was no pay for councillors and that he was also working as a teacher while attending local authority meetings.

"The gratuity is there. It is fully taxable. I'm fully tax-compliant. I think a gratuity, as it is named, is clearly recognition in terms of your time and service," he said.

Galway West Independent TD Catherine Connolly is due just over €53,500. She said of her 17-year council career, "I certainly wasn't in it for the money", adding that she took home an average of €230 a week and had chosen to give up a career in law to concentrate on being a local representative.

She said councillors worked long hours and added: "I did my job. I believed it was my duty and that's it, really. Someone has to go into public service and someone has to do the job."

Of the retirement gratuity, she pointed out that it was taxable and "in lieu of a pension".

Other TDs receiving the payments from their former local authorities include Fianna Fáil's Pat Casey (€39,100), Imelda Munster of Sinn Féin (€38,700), and Bríd Smith of AAA-PBP (€22,200).

Some local authorities have yet to compile the sums to be paid to TDs from their areas.