Howlin tells of deep cuts to pay of Ministers
Some of the deepest cuts to public sector pay have been imposed on the salaries of Cabinet members, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has told the Dáil.
He said those pay cuts – 9 per cent for those on salaries between €150,000 and €185,000 and 10 per cent for office-holders earning more than €185,000 – “will be fully reflected in the pension awards to current and future Ministers”.
The Minister was speaking during Question Time amid sharp exchanges over the levels of pension cuts imposed on senior office holders.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Minister of not being “politically willing” to deal with pensions for former taoisigh and ministers, but Mr Howlin retorted that she was making “back of the lorry” speeches.
Outlining the reductions in pensions, he said the public service pension reduction increased for those on over €100,000 from 12 per cent to 20 per cent. He said “some of the deepest pay cuts of all have been imposed on ministerial pay and these pay cuts will be fully reflected in the pension awards to current and future Ministers”.
Ms McDonald claimed “the Labour Party way is to take 5 per cent off these pensions” and she highlighted a number of net pensions, including €119,000 for former minister for finance Charlie McCreevy; €122,000 for former long-serving minister Michael Woods; €120,000 for former Labour tánaiste Dick Spring; and €150,000 each for former taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen.
She accused Mr Howlin of bragging that he had introduced emergency legislation to deal with pensions, but she claimed “you have not even begun to deal adequately with this issue”.
The Minister insisted, however, that “to the best of my ability and to the greatest extent that I could” as soon as he came into office he crafted emergency legislation to deal with the excessive pensions of office holders while meeting “constitutional imperatives”.
Mr Howlin said “whether we like it or not the formal [legal] advices are that pension benefits constitute a vested property right and are therefore protected by the Constitution”.
But Ms McDonald told the Minister, “I do not buy the suggestion that you cannot go much further with these pensions because of constitutional constraints”.
She said the legislation to liquidate the former Anglo Irish Bank stated that the “common good may require permanent or temporary interference with the rights, including property rights of persons”.
But Mr Howlin insisted case law highlighted those constitutional constraints.