29 September 2008

Laughing all the Way to the Bank

The Department of Finance has confirmed that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (right) is now receiving approximately € 68,000 in 'severance pay' following his resignation earlier this year.

When Ahern stepped down in May eventually, he lost of course - along with other things - his Taoiseach's allowance, which amounts to around € 185,000 per annum. So now Irish taxpayers are giving him (through the Dept. of Finance) 'severance money' for having resigned - and not a day too soon.

Did you know that members of the government who lose their job or resign are entitled to severance pay? I did not, and I would regard myself as rather well informed about politics.

Apparently this is based on legislation from 1992. I presume it is called the "Take the Money and Run Act", or perhaps the "Last Chance Saloon Payout Act"...

Well, whatever it is called, I think it is a scandal. TDs and ministers are not employees in a private firm who are made redundant at some stage. They are our elected representatives, sent by us to Dáil Éireann. And when we decide to send someone else, so be it. No TD or minister should be entitled to any extra payment, because he (or she) has done a bad job (which is usually the reason for losing a seat).

According to information from the Department of Finance, the former Taoiseach has been receiving these payments since May, and they will amount to around € 68,000 by November. This money comes of course on top of Bertie's normal TD payment of over € 100,000 a year.

For more than a decade he and his ministers have governed this country, during the time of the largest economic boom ever seen in modern times (which was not of their making). They had plenty of money available - billions and billions of surplus taxes - but instead of bringing Ireland forward into the 21st century, giving us a decent infrastructure and making us internationally competitive, they managed to waste and squander the money with not much to show for.
Their strong links with the construction industry created a housing bubble and an irrational property price inflation, both of which are now mill stones around the necks of our banks.

Bertie's private finances are under several clouds, to say the least, and he is still questioned about that element of his life by the Mahon Tribunal.
Having jumped ship in May before someone could push him - and just in time to be not in charge of a lost referendum and the worst economic crisis since 1929 - he is now given more 'severance money' in six months than most of us earn in a year, or many even in two years!
And it's all legal, since TDs have made it law to look after themselves very generously. Just look at Bertie's face and you know: He is laughing all the way to the bank.

In addition to Bertie Ahern, two other sitting Fianna Fáil TDs are paid € 53,218.99 'severance money' each in installments over the next 24 months, after they lost their jobs as junior ministers in May.

The Dept. of Finance has confirmed that it is paying these sums to Wexford TD John Browne (far left) and Cork-East TD Michael Ahern (left). Both were dropped from the government after Brian Cowen took over as the new Taoiseach.
This money comes - like for Bertie Ahern - on top of their normal TD salary "and does not affect their pension entitlements".

However, the third junior minister sacked by Brian Cowen in May - Donegal TD Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher (right), "did not opt for the 'severance pay' scheme".
That is quite interesting. It tells us that these payments are not coming to TDs automatically, but must be applied for. And while Bertie Ahern, John Browne and Michael Ahern obviously decided to get as much as possible out of the state system, Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher did not.
It is a small relief to see that there is still the odd Fianna Fáil TD who is not greedy and selfish. Good on you, Pat! I will remember this, and so should other people.

After the matter became public knowledge today, John Browne and Michael Ahern said that they "are entitled to the payments, are doing nothing wrong and are operating under legislation as laid down by the Oireachtas (both Houses of Parliament)".

Yes, that's quite correct. And it is the even bigger scandal than paying ex-ministers executive bonuses long after they have left office (for whatever reason). Doing so is wrong, but that it is 'legal' after TDs made it a law... well, that really stinks!
And it shows that most of our TDs see parliament still as their private financial self-service supermarket, where they can award themselves as much money as they like, without anyone else being asked for their opinions, and no-one being able to stop them.

By the way, the three cases that came to light today are not unique. More than € 3 million of 'severance money' were paid to former Oireachtas members who failed to get re-elected at the last general election.

While almost everyone in Ireland is now struggling to make ends meet, prices for everything are rising steadily and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is desperately looking for extra money to plug the ever more and ever larger wholes in his budget, it is a scandal that such an amount of money is wasted on failed politicians!

If Brian Lenihan is really serious with his intention to tighten the government's belt, this is a very good point to start. He could stop these payments, end the practice for good and get plenty of money from it for his coffers. Additionally, it would show that he has guts and give him a good boost in popularity around the country.

The Emerald Islander

3 comments:

Little Nicky said...

An absolute disgrace. Talk about rubbing your nose in it.
I wrote an email to Pat Gallagher expressing my appreciation to him for his honesty. It can be done directly from his site;
http://www.patthecope.com/contact.asp

No doubt it will be vetted by some secretary but i hope he gets it. I also hope his motivations for not taking it were good, other wise I'll feel like a right tosser

THE EMERALD ISLANDER said...

Hello Nicky,

I see you found your way onboard. And you are very welcome.

It is a disgrace, but sadly only the tip of a huge iceberg. Generations of TDs have lived off the land and off the people, without really doing much in return.
We have too many TDs, otherwise there would be some kind of healthy 'competition' in the Dáil. A reform of our parliamentary and electoral system is overdue.

I also intend to send a few nice words to Pat Gallagher.

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