Former politician pension payouts cost taxpayer €20m

The taxpayer paid out close to €20m last year in pensions, lump sums, and other retirement benefits to former politicians.

The €19.67m bill was inflated by large golden handshakes for TDs and senators who retired or lost their seats in the last general election.

Thirteen politicians received more than €200,000 last year, their payments boosted by generous retirement lump sums available from the Oireachtas.

Several of them were long-serving Labour TDs who had served in senior roles during the last government, including Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, and Eamon Gilmore.

The largest individual pensions are still being paid to former taoisigh Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern.

Both received annual pensions of €134,500 last year, made up of their pensions from the Oireachtas and from the Department of Finance for their time as ministers and as taoiseach.

The next highest pensions were paid to two other former taoisigh, John Bruton who received more than €126,000 and the late Liam Cosgrave, paid more than €118,000.

Overall, €9.56m was paid out in “basic pay”, the standard yearly pension paid to former TDs and senators.

The size of the payments varies enormously from upwards of €50,000 for long-serving politicians to just a few thousand euro for those who were in Leinster House for a short period of time.

More than 300 ex-TDs and senators were in receipt of some form of pension payment last year, with the average working out at €29,718.

Because it was an election year, the overall amount paid out climbed dramatically because of a variety of lump sum and termination payments.

Pension lump sums of €3.37m were paid to 36 different politicians, with the average payment working out at just over €93,000.

The largest lump sum payments were made to some of the longest-serving politicians: Labour’s Emmett Stagg, who got €161,508, Fine Gael’s Dan Neville, with €153,258, and Fianna Fáil’s John Browne, paid €152,758.

Nineteen different politicians received lump sums exceeding six figures including several former Fine Gael ministers such as John Perry and Jimmy Deenihan.

A total of 87 ex-public representatives received a combined €1.14m in what are known as termination lump sums.

This is paid to those of pension age but also younger politicians who lost or vacated their seats, who would be too young to be paid their pension.

These payments all ranged between €10,800 and €16,000 depending on the politician’s length of service in parliament.

In addition, €1.9m was paid out in termination pay which is a stepdown payment for TDs and senators leaving Kildare Street.

It can be paid for up to a year depending on how long the politicians has been in Leinster House, and is available irrespective of age.

It is open to former politicians to gift or refund parts of their pension payments and some have done so in the past. However, the Oireachtas does not release details of that type of gifting.

For ministerial pensions, which are paid by the Department of Finance, two people are listed as having surrendered payments last year.

Former Labour minister of state Eithne Fitzgerald gave back €16,982, virtually all her €17,303.52 ministerial pension, while President Michael D Higgins surrendered €36,906.48, again almost all the €37,305.32 due to him.


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