Former TD: Pension bid fell foul of downturn

FORMER Cork TD Barry Cogan has said the downturn in the economy scuppered any chance five retired politicians had of qualifying for its lucrative pension scheme.

The Carrigaline-based former Fianna Fáil deputy and county councillor confirmed he was among five former deputies and senators at the centre of lobbying the Department of Finance to relax the qualification rules.

All five had been elected as either deputies or senators prior to 1983 but did not stay for the eight years required at the time to qualify for the pension.

In recent years the Oireachtas Commission told the Department of Finance the cases involved “considerable hardship” and asked for the rules to be set aside.

Mr Cogan said what hopes remained of being included in the scheme suffered with the downturn.

“At one stage it looked like something was happening but then the whole world collapsed and we have not heard anything in relation to it since,” he said.

However, Mr Cogan said he had not given up on the department eventually extending the pension cover.

Other politicians were:

* Alexis Fitzgerald Jnr, who served in the Dáil and Seanad in the 1970s and 1980s for Fine Gael.

* Tony Herbert, a two-time Fianna Fáil senator in the early 1980s.

* Pat Cummins, a Dublin south-central deputy for Fianna Fáil in the 1960s who died last March.

* Frank Prendergast, a Limerick East deputy and lecturer elected in 1982 for the Labour Party.

The department and the Oireachtas Commission were petitioned on the men’s behalf by the Irish Parliamentary [Former Members] Society.

Its chairman Vincent Brady said it had no contact recently about the appeal and the case was now effectively closed.

At one stage during a lengthy lobbying effort the then ceann comhairle Rory O’Hanlon lobbied the Department of Finance on behalf of the men and said “the five cases referred to involve those in considerable hardship”.

His request was echoed by his successor John O’Donoghue and the then social affairs minister Seamus Brennan.

However, Finance minister Brian Lenihan and Brian Cowen before him would not entertain the appeal.

Mr Cowen said to change the qualification rules for any public pension scheme for a small group of individuals would create an unwanted precedent.

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