Almost €20 million paid out in pensions, lump sums, and termination pay to former politicians last year

THE taxpayer paid out close to €20 million last year in pensions, lump sums, and other retirement benefits for former politicians.

The huge €19.67 million bill was inflated by large golden handshakes for TDs and Senators who had retired or lost their seats in the last general election.

Thirteen different politicians received more than €200,000 last year, their payments boosted by generous retirement lump sums available from the Oireachtas.

Several of them were long-serving Labour TDs who had served in senior roles during the last coalition government, including Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, and Eamon Gilmore.

The largest individual pensions however, are still being paid to a group of formerly powerful politicians including Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern.

Both received annual pensions of €134,500 last year, made up of their pensions from the Oireachtas and from the Department of Finance for their time as ministers and as Taoiseach.

The next highest pensions were paid to two other former taoisigh, John Bruton who received more than €126,000 and the late Liam Cosgrave who was paid more than €118,000.

Overall, €9.56 million was paid out in “basic pay”, the standard yearly pension paid to former TDs and Senators by the Oireachtas.

The size of the payments varies enormously from upwards of €50,000 for long-serving politicians to just a few thousand euro for those who were in Leinster House for a short period of time.

More than 300 ex-TDs and Senators were in receipt of some form of pension payment last year, with the average working out at €29,718.

Because it was an election year, the overall amount paid out climbed dramatically because of a variety of lump sum and termination payments designed to ease former members out of the Dáil and Seanad.

Pension lump sums of €3.37 million were paid out to 36 different politicians, with the average payment there working out at just over €93,000.

The largest lump sum payments were made to some of the longest-serving politicians in Ireland: Labour’s Emmett Stagg who got €161,508, Fine Gael’s Dan Neville with €153,258, and Fianna Fáil’s John Browne, paid €152,758.

Nineteen different politicians received lump sums exceeding six figures including several former Fine Gael ministers like John Perry and Jimmy Deenihan.

A total of 87 ex-public representatives received a combined €1.14 million in what are known as termination lump sums.

This is paid to those of pension age but also younger politicians who lost or vacated their seats, who would be too young to be paid their pension.

These payments all ranged between €10,800 and €16,000 depending on the politician’s length of service in parliament.

In addition, €1.9 million was paid out in termination pay which is a stepdown payment for TDs and Senators leaving Kildare Street.

It can be paid for up to a year depending on how long the politician has been in Leinster House, and is available irrespective of age.

It is open to former politicians to gift or refund parts of their pension payments and some have done so in the past. However, the Oireachtas does not release details of that type of gifting.

For ministerial pensions, which are paid by the Department of Finance, two people are listed as having surrendered payments last year.

Former minister Eithne Fitzgerald gave back €16,982, virtually all her €17,303.52 ministerial pension while President Michael D Higgins surrendered €36,906.48, again almost all the €37,305.32 due to him.

Ministerial pensions cost €3.64 million last year, paid out to 131 different people according to figures from the Department of Finance.

You can see the full list of those here.

Overall, the highest payment was made to Labour’s Emmett Stagg who received €247,231 after serving 29 consecutive years in the Dáil, as well as a spell as a minister.

That was made up of five separate payments: a six-figure lump sum worth €161,000, a termination lump sum of just under €16,000, termination pay of €35,815, a ministerial pension of €15,683, and a TD pension of €18,296.

Next up was Fianna Fáil’s John Browne who got €245,134, again made up of the same five types of separate payments.

Three senior figures from Labour – Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, and Eamon Gilmore – rounded out the top five, with payments of between €229,000 and €240,000.

The Oireachtas said their pension system was a “contributory scheme”. A spokeswoman explained: “Members elected pre-2013 contribute six percent and they also pay the public service pension levy. Those elected post-2013 contribute thirteen percent and pay the public service pension levy.”

The Department of Public Expenditure said ministerial pensions were calculated based on length of service and the salary the person had before retirement.

They said: “The salaries of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and other officeholders have been substantially reduced since 2008, and will not be restored under the Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017.

“Those reduced salaries, like for all public servants, are also currently subject to the pension related deduction, which will be changed to a permanent ongoing [payment] … from 2019.”

They said a raft of other reforms had been introduced for ministerial pensions including a restriction on their payment until age 65, a prohibition on payment if the person still sits in the Seanad or Dáil, and the abolition of severance payments.

Two provisos to the data. There are instances where TDs with long public service (in for instance education) served just a single term in the Oireachtas so any calculations below reflect both the previous job and their political career.

Similarly, there are a couple of cases where lump sums would have been previously paid to TDs if say they had lost their seat before and regained it at a subsequent election.

  • If you paid back some of your pension last year or believe the figures here are incorrect, let me know and I will update the spreadsheet.
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One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    just outrageous

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