TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has called on former ministers to “refuse” a controversial increase in their pensions, saying the country is still “fragile economically”.
Mr Kenny made the remarks following a stormy Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting where one TD called the hike in pensions “disgusting”.
Backbenchers turned on Mr Kenny, who was not at the meeting, after he suggested that ex-politicians like Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern could engage in a “voluntary process” if they wanted to decline generous pension top-ups.
Mr Kenny asked former ministers who will benefit from the rise of up to €1,600 to consider the delicate position of our economy.
“I’m advised that, from a constitutional point of view, that once a person retires their pension is different than a pension of a serving member,” he told the Herald in Milan.
“So, I would say to the small number who are involved here: ‘They’re former politicians. We’re in a fragile position economically’. I would say to them: ‘Refuse the increase that is
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin previously said that the Government doesn’t have the power to stop the increases.
Mr Kenny is today visiting the Expo Milan 2015, where he said the Irish pavilion was “a brilliant opportunity for Ireland to sell and promote what it does best, which is food and hospitality”.
A Fine Gael party meeting became heated as backbenchers turned on Mr Kenny, who suggested that ex-politicians could decline generous pension top-ups. There were angry scenes as TDs warned of a backlash from voters.
Several backbenchers including Jerry Buttimer, Brendan Griffin, Tony Lawlor and Alan Farrell, demanded the Cabinet introduce legislation to prevent the pension top-ups.
Mr Griffin, from Kerry South, described the top-ups as “disgusting”.
A small number of deputies left the meeting after party bosses moved the discussion away from pension top-ups and on to the issue of social media.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has pledged to cut the Universal Social Charge by at least 1pc in the Budget next October.
“I use the Budget for economic management purposes and I’m going to cut personal taxes,” he said.
“I’m going to cut the Universal Social Charge (USC) by at least 1pc and maybe a bit more.”
Mr Noonan, in an interview with Newstalk Breakfast, said that he especially wanted to target people on low pay to ensure work paid better than welfare. He said he needed to change income tax, PRSI and the USC in different ways to achieve a better reward for work.
“I’m doing it so work pays better than it pays now and there’s more take-home pay and that I’m incentivising more people to go to work and I’m incentivising people to come home who were forced out,” Mr Noonan said.