THE Irish taxpayer has paid out more than €2.4 million in pension payments for former MEPs over the past four years.
Twenty-seven former Euro MPs are currently on the Oireachtas pay roll for their service in Brussels and Strasbourg with small pensions also paid to six spouses of deceased ex-members.
The pension bill is actually higher again with some ex-MEPs paid at least some of their pension directly from Europe dependent on when they served.
In some cases, former politicians have ended up entitled to no less than three separate pensions, if they also served as a TD, Senator, or Minister, before or after going to Europe.
At least twelve are eligible for three different pensions, including former ministers Proinsias De Rossa, Síle de Valera, Gay Mitchell and Richie Ryan.
Also entitled to a triple pension are: Liam Aylward, Gerard Collins, Avril Doyle, Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher (no longer as a sitting TD), Jim Higgins, Liam Hyland, Tom O’Donnell, Eoin Ryan.
To get a sense of how much each of these triple pensions is worth, the spreadsheet posted below has the MEP pension and you will find the value of Oireachtas and ministerial pensions at this database I helped create when working in RTÉ (figures correct up to 2014).
It is of course open to any former politician to gift a portion of their pension back to the State and some are known to do so. Details of this are not however, released in FOI requests as it is deemed “personal information”.
The biggest MEP only pension is paid to former Fine Gael politician Joe McCartin, who was in receipt of €54,583 last year. He is also entitled to an Oireachtas pension of around €35,000 for his long years of service in the Dáil and Seanad.
Fine Gael’s Mary Banotti was the second highest on the MEP pension list, and has received an average of around €49,000 over the past four years.
She is not in receipt of any other political pension however, having worked continuously in Europe for twenty years from 1984 to 2004.
Fianna Fail’s Jim Fitzsimons was next on the table with an MEP pension of just over €45,000. He is also entitled to a Dáil pension of just over €25,000.
The well-known ex-Progressive Democrat politician Pat Cox received €37,492 in his EU pension last year while former Fine Gael MEP John Cushnahan received the same amount.
The pensions rise quite quickly and MEPs who have served just a single five-year stint in Europe are entitled to pensions of around €12,000 per year.
Former Eurovision winner Dana Rosemary Scallon for instance, was paid €12,524 after serving as an MEP from 1999 to 2004. Similarly, one-term MEP Kathy Sinnott was entitled to a pension of €11,584 last year after serving in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009.
In six cases where the former politician has died, small pensions continue to be paid to their spouses and these totalled €70,498 during last year.
The Oireachtas said former politicians were allowed “the benefit of all pensions” they qualified for.
They said: “If a person in receipt of a public sector pension returns to work in the public sector any such pensions are potentially liable for abatement.
“All pensions are aggregated for the purposes of calculating any FEMPI [Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest] reductions.
“The figures are gross figures and do not include deductions for tax, PRSI etc [so] net payments may be significantly lower.”
The Oireachtas said that all MEP pensioners with service up to the European elections in 2009 were paid directly by them.
However, any service since then is paid by the European Parliament and is not subject to Freedom of Information legislation.
“In practice, this means that a number of pensioners have their entitlement split with payment coming from two different sources.”