Kenny hits back at ‘runaway pensions’ claim

Taoiseach Enda Kenny claimed the Government has increased taxes on high earners as TDs blasted his unwillingness to tackle the “runaway, gilt-edged pensions” of former senior politicians.

A Cabinet minister also admitted yesterday that she and colleagues were “outraged” at generous pensions still being handed out to former office-holders.

The comments came after it emerged that former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been drawing down his full €150,000 pension since he left the Dáil, despite saying he would gift part of it to the State.

It was reported yesterday that only seven of 116 ex-ministers have given up part of their pensions, despite changes allowing them to do so.

None of the Fianna Fáil ministers who presided over the economic crash have given up any of their pensions.

Mr Kenny said that high earners had been hit in the budget, with a property tax on high-value properties, as well as a withdrawal of tax relief on pensions over €60,000.

“It is a case of not having increased income taxes for everybody but of making those who earn more pay more,” he told the Dáil.

He commended former politicians who had chosen to give up part of their pensions, adding: “This Government has made decisions for the future in respect of all politicians, including the abolition of severance pay and the reduction in salaries, which will impact on pensions.”

However, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald asked why the Government was unwilling to tackle the “lavish pensions” when it was introducing reduced pay for new trainee nurses.

“The Taoiseach said that the Government is prepared to legislate for pay cuts for low-paid public sector workers but it consistently refuses to legislate on the issue of the runaway, gilt-edged pensions of former taoisigh and some of the Taoiseach’s former colleagues,” she said.

Mr Ahern had gifted back his €83,000 ministerial pension in 2010 after public outrage.

But records released yesterday showed that last year he received his full ministerial and TD pension of €164,000, which fell to €150,000 after cuts were applied.

Other high-profile politicians who received full pensions last year include former ministers John O’Donoghue, Dermot Ahern, Martin Cullen, Noel Dempsey, Charlie McCreevy, and Mary Hanafin, as well as former taoiseach John Bruton.

Reacting to the ongoing drawing down of huge pensions, Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan said she and colleagues were “outraged”.

She told Newstalk: “Apparently we can’t do anything about it because we would be retrospectively cutting pensions. We sought legal advice; the legal advice is that we can’t. If we could, we most certainly would.

“I would call on those people who haven’t given up their pensions, in light of this, to examine their hearts.”

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