29 April 2010 Edition
Geoghegan-Quinn and Bertie Ahern finally cave in to public anger
Fianna Fáil ex-ministers WERE KEEPing public pensions, not sharing public pain
BY BRENDAN KERR
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen saw no problem in using the weekend Fianna Fáil Easter Rising Commemoration at Arbour Hill to lecture public sector workers that industrial action rejecting the Croke Park pay deal “can only mean further jobs losses”. The following day, though, he still couldn’t bring himself to even suggest to Fianna Fáil nominee and EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn that she should give up her €108,000 state pension while she’s in a job with a salary of €243,000.
On Monday evening, Geoghegan-Quinn was still loftily refusing to even answer media questions about taxpayers’ anger and whether public figures should be seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ and showing leadership.
However, on Monday night, public outrage forced the well-heeled ‘Go-Go’ to eventually do the right thing and she caved in. She will now (reluctantly) ‘gift’ the pensions to the state for the duration of her service as an EU Commissioner.
The majority of ex-ministers still clinging to their pensions on Monday night followed suit on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is one of 16 Fianna Fáil ex-ministers who was cheerfully and unashamedly taking half a million euro a year in ministerial pensions from the public purse on top of their TDs’ or EU salaries.
Meanwhile, their party leader is daily lecturing ordinary taxpayers that we must all share the pain for the mess Fianna Fáil has made of the public finances.
Most galling of all is that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is one of the Fianna Fáil fat cats still making the most that they can out of the taxpayer.
The now largely invisible TD for Dublin Central pocketed a €111,200 pension on top of his Dáil salary of €92,600.
He also has a car and a Garda driver paid for by the taxpayer; that was worth €175,600 last year. For five speeches in the USA, he has picked up €146,000.
And even though his recent memoir was the work of a ghost writer, his reported €100,000 advance was tax-free, thanks to the state’s writers’ and artists’ tax exemption scheme.
Public pressure on the remaining handful still holding out on Wednesday morning is expected to mount.
But why did it take so long for so many well-paid ‘leaders’ – fond of lecturing workers on average wages – to show leadership and ‘do the right the thing’?