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Mr McManus's massive pension

Even after all that we have learned about extravagant, gold-plated public sector pensions and pay-offs, the package paid to former ESB chief executive Padraig McManus still fairly takes the breath away. As we report in today's paper Mr McManus, who stepped down as ESB boss last year, received a payoff of almost €600,000 and will receive an annual pension of almost €200,000.

This means that Mr McManus will be paid €800,000 in his first year of retirement. This makes his retirement package the most generous ever paid in the public sector, exceeding even the €713,000 to Dermot McCarthy, former secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, last year. Oh, and Mr McManus will also receive up to €470 worth of free electricity from his former employer every year.

Just to add insult to injury, when queried on this matter, an ESB spokesperson had the gall to tell the Irish Independent that it was a "personal matter". What utter and complete nonsense. Not alone is the ESB owned by the Irish people, the company increased electricity prices by 15pc last August. This is the same ESB that is being sued by University College Cork for €18m due to damage suffered during the disastrous November 2009 flood when the ESB released water from the dams on the River Lee.

Given the fact that it is publicly-owned and the central role it continues to play in the Irish economy, the notion that Mr McManus's outrageously extravagant retirement payoff and pension arrangements are a private matter of interest only to him and the company is absurd. This is in every sense the people's business.

The payout to Mr McManus is merely the latest manifestation of Ireland's rapidly worsening pensions apartheid. On the one hand is a relatively small minority of public sector workers who can look forward to gold-plated, taxpayer-funded pensions. On the other, the vast majority of private sector workers can only look forward to penury in their old age with the CSO calculating that only half of all private sector workers have made any provision at all for their retirement.

With the number of over-65s set to almost treble over the next half-century, this pensions divide is set to get worse unless urgent action is taken.

Such a disparity in the pensions of different groups of workers threatens to undermine the social cohesion which has served us so well during our current economic difficulties.

We're either all in this together or we're not.

If we're not, then why should private sector workers continue to make the sacrifices that are currently being demanded of them?

Irish Independent