Party leader allowance bill to be cut by €840,000
Payments to Independent TDs and Senators will be subject to audit
The Bill, published by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, will reduce the so-called party leader’s allowance by 10 per cent. Photograph: Eric Luke
Legislation announced by the Government yesterday will reduce one tranche of State funding to political parties by 10 per cent and end the controversial “golden handshake” severance payments for retiring ministers.
The Bill published by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin will reduce the so-called party leader’s allowance by €840,000 or 10 per cent. The allowance is paid to all qualified political parties and a total of some €7.5 million was paid out in 2012.
As the allowance is paid pro rata, the largest beneficiary was Fine Gael which received almost €2.7 million. Labour received €1.8 million. The allowance is reduced for parties in Government as they enjoy additional supports.
One of the most contentious aspects of the allowance is that all Independent TDs and Senators are also entitled to receive it, with non-party TDs receiving more than €41,000 each and Senators receiving some €23,000. Another aspect of the allowance is that they were not audited and there was no transparency as to how parties and individuals were spending the funds. The only explicit restriction is that the money could not be used for electoral purposes.
The new Bill, the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) Amendment Bill includes provisions to ensure that the spending is audited with the Standards in Public Office being given new powers to monitor the spending. The allowance is also being renamed the Parliamentary Activities Allowance. According to Mr Howlin, this will better reflect its purpose.
“The State has for many years supported members of the Oireachtas as they carry out their parliamentary activities. This is the right thing to do as long as the funding is appropriately applied and seen to be so,” he said yesterday.
‘Buffer their transition’
The severance payments were made to office holders including An Taoiseach, An Tánaiste, An Ceann Comhairle, Ministers and Ministers of State upon retiring from that office and were designed to buffer their transition back to the lower pay levels of a pension, or of a backbench deputy.
The retiring office holders received 75 per cent of their salary for the first six months; 50 per cent for the next 12 months and 25 per cent for the last six months. The severance payments of €80,000 pro rata to retiring Fianna Fáil ministers in the run-up to the 2011 general election was heavily criticised by the then opposition.
The first office holders to lose the severance payment upon retirement form ministerial office will be the members of the current Cabinet when the Government reaches the end of its term. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he intends for the Government to continue until April 2016.