Just four ex-ministers refuse to take payout

Only four out of 43 former government ministers have declined to accept an allowance, saving taxpayers over €250,000, new figures reveal.

The severance payment, introduced by Fianna Fáil during the boom, has cost the State almost €1.6m over the past two years.

Figures released by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform reveal that 39 former ministers, ministers of state, and senior officeholders, including a former attorney general and a leader of the Seanad, had claimed severance payments totalling €1,574,132 since 2011.

It represents an average payment of €40,362 each to compensate senior politicians for the loss of office.

The Government announced in October that the perk, whose excessive scale was widely criticised during a review of all public service allowances earlier this year, is to be abolished.

The largest allowance has been claimed by former Green Party leader John Gormley, who has received €126,038.37 in severance payments over the past two years as a former environment minister.

Other recipients of large payments under the scheme include former attorney general Paul Gallagher (€106,092); current Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (€86,610); Dick Roche (€83,941); and Batt O’Keeffe (€81,398).

Several former ministers who are entitled to severance payments have claimed the allowance, despite still being members of the Dáil.

They include five Fianna Fáil TDs such as the current chairman of the Dáil’s public spending watchdog, John McGuinness, who has received €61,318 in severance payments since 2011.

The others are Dara Calleary, (€53,708); Michael Kitt, (€37,474); Billy Kelleher (€20,972); and Willie O’Dea (€8,064).

Labour TD Willie Penrose, who resigned as housing minister in Nov 2011, has claimed €28,240 in severance payments to date.

Party colleague Róisín Shortall, who resigned as junior health minister in September, declined to accept a severance payment.

To date, she would have been entitled to €6,522 out of a total severance package which would have been worth over €33,000.

Only three other serving politicians — Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and his party colleagues Brendan Smith and Éamon Ó Cuív — have declined to accept the severance payment.

As a result Mr Martin has foregone an allowance of €90,437, while Mr Smith and Mr Ó Cuív gifted back sums of €76,663 each.

Ministers and other senior officeholders have to serve a minimum of two years in the position before they are entitled to claim a ministerial pension.

Under Oireachtas rules, former ministers are entitled to receive 75% of their ministerial salary for six months after they cease to hold office, followed by reduced monthly payments for another 12 months.

The figures on severance payments were released in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald.

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