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Martin under pressure as he refuses to give up ministerial €90,000 payoff

MICHEAL Martin is struggling to shake off the shackles of old Fianna Fail today as he refused to give up a golden parachute.

The outgoing cabinet are set for individual windfalls of nearly €90,000 even if they are re-elected as TDs.

Mr Martin was accused of "failing the first personal test" after rejecting suggestions that he should voluntarily forego the payment.

Between them, the Fianna Fail leader and six members of his frontbench are set to collect €621,215 as compensation for losing their places in cabinet.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has promised to do away with such pay-offs if his party leads the next government.

And a Fine Gael spokesperson said that Mr Martin's stance showed a lack of leadership.

Others entitled to the step-down payments include Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, Brian Lenihan, Mary Hanafin and Eamon O Cuiv.

The goodbye money -- €88,745 each -- will be paid out over two years even if, as the ministers hope, they continue as TDs.

If they lose their seats the compensation will be even larger as it will come in the form of ministerial and TD pensions.

Asked about the payments, Mr Martin said that they were an entitlement that had always been accepted.

It was an embarrassing moment for the man who was trying to distance Fianna Fail from the past 14 years by announcing a series of radical political reforms.

He was also forced to defend his appointment of Bertie Ahern's former partner Celia Larkin to the board of the National Consumer Agency.

Speaking about the pay-off, Mr Martin said: "The existing severance payments stand and that's the way it will be."

After repeated questioning as to whether that meant he would be accepting the money, Mr Martin replied: "Yes."

At the same time, Enda Kenny was announcing his party's plans to "abolish severance pay for ministers leaving office".

He also promised to cut the Taoiseach's salary to €200,000 while ministers will lose pay on a pro-rata basis.

Labour said that they wanted the new Taoiseach to paid €190,000 a year.

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