Government was forced to admit the situation by the opposition yesterday as it told union leaders engaged in separate pay talks that they must be based on “prudent, modest, and sustainable” aims for low paid workers.
Speaking during a Dáil debate on what action is being taken to ensure the union discussions focus on people in genuine need, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin confirmed that significant taxpayer-funded payments are still being given to those who led the country as the boom went bust.
Responding to a formal query from Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald for up-to-date data on ministerial pensions given to all retired taoisigh and ministers, Mr Howlin outlined a series of eye-catching sums paid last year. The figures do not include a separate TDs’ pension entitlement.
The 119 pensions given to retired taoisigh and ministers amount to a total annual pay-out of almost €4m a year, with the highest rates dominated by Celtic Tiger era leaders, including:
- Ex-taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, who top the list with €80,810.86 pension payments every year, the equivalent of €1,549 every week;
- Former justice minister Michael McDowell, fourth on the list, who receives €64,958.14 a year;
- Former health minister Mary Harney, fifth, who receives €63,478.22 a year;
- Former sports minister John O’Donoghue, ninth with €54,812.94 a year;
- Former transport minister Martin Cullen, tenth, who receives €54,812.94 a year;
- Former finance minister Charlie McCreevy, 13th, who receives €54,812.68 a year;
- Former justice minister Dermot Ahern, 14th, who receives €54,570.62 a year.
Other high-profile recipients of the payments who were not in power as the economy crashed include former taoiseach John Bruton (third with €72,908.94), former tánaiste Dick Spring (seventh with €56,386.20), former Progressive Democrats leader Des O Malley (eighth with €56,059.64) and former finance minister and IBRC director Alan Dukes (30th with €45,470.62).
Pension payments are still continuing to former justice minister Ray Burke, who was jailed in 2005 for making false tax returns (32nd with €42,262.84) and former justice minister Pádraig Flynn, who the Mahon Tribunal described as “corrupt” (€33,292.74).
Mr Howlin said a number of the individuals “gift” some or all of their pensions back to the State or to charity.
He said his Department has been told by the attorney general that the pensions have been reduced as far as is legally possible.
Ms McDonald said it is galling that people who were in charge at the height of the boom and during the crash are continuing to receive the lavish sums while low-paid people are suffering.
She said there is a clear “contrast” to the 4,000 low paid public servants who need the “family support supplement” because they are paid so little, claiming this situation is an “admittance” some people are still being paid “poverty wages”.