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Nothing impressive about returning expenses

It seems we are meant to be impressed that former President Mrs McAleese returned about €500,000 in unspent personal allowances to the State.

Is it because she normally would have been expected to say nothing and keep that money? In the same way that members of the Oireachtas, councillors and MEPs all claim the maximum possible level of expenses ‘because they can’ and not because they incur those expenses?

Before we get carried away with Mrs McAleese’s generosity in returning our own money, it’s worth pointing out that over her 14 years as President, she received a post-tax salary of about €250,000 every year, which adds up to about €3,500,000 over her two terms.

For quite a number of years, her salary alone was €375,000 per annum. During that time, Mrs McAlesse did not incur a single cent in personal costs because the Irish taxpayer paid for her accommodation, travel, food, security, entertainment and clothing.

I’d have been more impressed if, during her terms in office, Mrs McAleese set an example by providing and publishing receipts for all the expenses incurred by her office and to have reduced her salary to no more than €150,000 per annum before tax.

The honour of being President of Ireland should be more than enough for anyone, especially given we are told so often that all they seek is the chance to ‘serve’.

Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf



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