Losing councillors get golden handshakes of up to €51,000

COUNCILLORS who lost their seats in last week’s elections will be entitled to golden handshakes of up to €51,000 amounting to a bill of €6 million for the taxpayer.

Maurice Ahern, brother of the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, is entitled to a lump sum payment of €32,000 after losing his seat in Dublin City Council while also failing to get elected to the Dáil in the Dublin Central by-election.

Councillors who retired and decided not to contest a seat will also get the compensation payments which amount to €3,520 per year of service for those who worked as councillors since 2000 and €716 a year for up two 20 years previous to that.

A total of 194 councillors lost their seats in last week’s elections – 96 from Fianna Fáil, 36 from Fine Gael, 25 independents, 13 Greens, three from Labour and nine Sinn Féin councillors.

The Green Party’s Niall O Brolcháin who lost his seat on Galway City Council will get a one-off payment of around €17,600 as will all of those elected in 2004 but failed to hold their seats.

Councillors with 40 years of unbroken experience are entitled to €51,000 of what is called the “retirement gratuity” fund, those with 30 years of service would get €46,000.

Funds for the payment are provided through individual local authorities who make provisions for it in their annual budgets.

It has emerged that the €250,000 fund set aside by Clare County Council for councillors who did not get re-elected in the local elections is not likely to be enough to meet the pay-offs required for nine councillors who will not be part of the new 32-member council.

In its budget for 2009, the council set aside the fund for a “golden handshake” for councillors who retired or failed to recapture their seat in the elections.

However, the payout to four retiring councillors and an additional five sitting councillors who failed to get re-elected is likely to eclipse the €250,000 fund.

The Clare situation could be repeated across other local authorities and depends on how many sitting councillors did not return.

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