Wednesday 20 November 2019

Golden pensions

•This is in regard to claims by Richard Bruton that changes to public-sector pensions "cannot be applied retrospectively" and by Eamon Gilmore that the pension awarded to the former Secretary to the Government Dermot McCarthy "cannot be taken back".

It's amazing how different the answer can be depending on how the question is phrased. If the Government asked, "Tell us why we can't reduce and take back the pensions of former government ministers and senior public-sector retirees," it gets a completely different answer than if it had asked, "Tell us how we can reduce and claim back the pensions paid to former government ministers and senior public sector retirees."

The difference between the two questions comes down to a lack of political will on the part of the Government.

There is a very simple solution to the public anger at the refusal of the Government to tackle the gravy train at higher levels of the public sector.

Given we are talking about a few hundred people, mostly former members of the Oireachtas and holders of a range of senior-level public- sector positions, they could all be reclassed under a new revenue code that taxes each of them individually so that all income they receive from the private sector is taken into account.

The end result would be that the taxpayer never pays anyone a pension of more than €60,000, the cap advocated by Fine Gael in its election manifesto, and even that is far too generous.

It's not as if the public sector can point to one single area where it is a model of efficiency, transparency, accountability or best practice.

Reform is all about the way the question is phrased and it's pretty easy when the political will is there, as those on the lower pay rates Mr Bruton moved so fast to reform will know to their cost.

Funny how he hasn't seen fit to reform the costs of the professional fees at the higher end of the pay scale.

Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London

Irish Independent

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