Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said he understands why many people are angry with Bertie Ahern but insisted if the former taoiseach feels he needs extra security he can well afford to pay for it.
Mr Shatter was speaking after it emerged that Mr Ahern was attacked by someone wielding a crutch in a Dublin city centre pub last Friday night. It has been revealed that he has also been verbally abused on a number of occasions in the past few months and was even sent a rope in the post with the clear implication that he should end his life.
He said: “There are some former taoisigh receiving very substantial sums of money from the State who I should think if they need a driver or some additional security they should be able to raise that themselves.”
He said it was very important that people obey the law and while he would not condone the attack, there were tens of thousands of people suffering because of the previous government.
“I understand for a whole series of reasons there are people who are angry and upset by decisions made by his government. There are tens of thousands of people in this country suffering the consequences of decisions made — that doesn’t mean that any member of any previous government should be the object of physical attack or any unlawful conduct by the individual,” he said.
Mr Ahern, like all former taoisigh, had his car and Garda driver taken under cost-cutting measures in 2011. At the time it was estimated that a garda and car cost €280,000 per year while a civilian driver and car cost the State €120,000.
Mr Ahern’s overall pension is €145,000, comprising of a ministerial pension of €99,907 and a TDs pension of around €46,000.
Mr Shatter said there were only three members of Cabinet now entitled to a Garda car and driver — Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and himself as justice minister.
However, he said he relied on advice from gardaí as to what security former taoisigh required.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan, whose state car was vandalised in Athlone earlier this year, said while he did not know anything about the Ahern incident he felt people had to get on with their work.
He said it becomes an issue if people become aggressive but it had not happened to him too often in the past two and a half years despite hostility in some areas to government policy.
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