27 former ministers forgo part of pensions


PENSIONS COSTS:TWENTY-SEVEN former ministers surrendered portions of their ministerial pensions last year. The savings to the State amounted to less than €178,700, out of a total pension bill of more than €4.1 million.

Among those surrendering part of their pensions were former taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Liam Cosgrave. Neither John Bruton, who receives a ministerial pension of close to €91,000, Albert Reynolds, who is entitled to €99,682, or Brian Cowen, who was paid €79,740, chose to surrender any portion of their entitlement last year, according to figures published last night by the Department of Finance.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny surrendered the full pension payable to him last year of €2,050. He is one of six members of the current Government in receipt of ministerial pensions.

His colleagues Eamon Gilmore, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte also surrendered the full sum due to them. None was in receipt of more than €2,000. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has previously stated that he is donating his ministerial pension to charity.

President Michael D Higgins opted to give back €6,612, a figure that was higher than the €5,953 to which he was entitled. His rival in the presidential campaign, Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell, also gave up his pension of €4,611. Former presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese received pensions last year of €139,500 and €16,840 respectively. Mrs Robinson gave up €15,500 of her entitlement.

EU commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn, who has an annual pension of almost €60,000 for her time as a minister, also declined to accept any payment for last year.

In total, 131 former ministers are listed as being in receipt of pensions from the State last year.

The highest pension paid was to former Progressive Democrat leader, tánaiste and attorney general Michael McDowell. He was paid €173,683. However, the majority of this – €142,877 – was related to underpayment of his pension in 2011 and earlier years.

That aside, the highest ministerial pensions were paid to Mr Reynolds and Mr Bruton.

Higher sums were paid to two former comptroller and auditors general in receipt of pensions. John Purcell, who retired in 2008, received a sum of €114,709 last year, as did his predecessor Laurie McDonnell.

Neither chose to surrender any portion of that sum.

Similarly, no former attorney general opted to forgo any of the pension sums due, according to the figures supplied by the Department of Finance.

Between them, David Byrne, Dermot Gleeson, Anthony Hederman, John Murray, John Rogers, Peter Sutherland and Harry Whelehan received pensions of €367,015 last year, regardless of other earnings.

Mr Murray is in receipt of the highest sum in this group, €67,576. The attorneys general on the list served over a period from 1977 to 1999.

Retired judges received an aggregate sum of €4.7 million in pensions in 2011, with a further €3.6 million paid in retirement lump sums. A further sum of almost €150,000 was paid in judicial death gratuities. None of the sums for the judiciary is broken down by recipient and there is no record of any of the money being returned to the State last year.