FG denies preconditions for Kenny interview

 

Fine Gael has denied allegations that it tried to censor an interview with party leader Enda Kenny on Newstalk Radio.

The interview, which was conducted yesterday and broadcast on this morning’s Breakfast Show, did not allude to the controversy surrounding Mr Kenny’s teacher’s pension.

Newstalk’s Chris O’Donoghue revealed that Mr Kenny only agreed to the interview so long as there was no mention of the issue, prompting Fianna Fáil’s John Curran to accuse Fine Gael of censorship.

“Fine Gael's insistence that Enda Kenny not be asked certain questions reflects that party's approach to running away from scrutiny when challenged,” he said.

However, Fine Gael denied the accusation, saying Mr Kenny dealt with the issue in a speech by the leader yesterday.

A report in yesterday's Sunday Business Post revealed Mr Kenny had deferred a €100,000 lump sum payment from his teachers’ pension due when he turns 60 in April until he retires from politics. Mr Kenny is also due a €30,000 pension from teaching on top of his salary as a TD.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused Mr Kenny of “rank hypocrisy” given the Fine Gael leader's public criticism of outgoing ministers for accepting severance payments.

Speaking at a Fine Gael rally at the Aviva Stadium yesterday, Mr Kenny said he would not be accepting any pension, saying he had not taken "one red cent" from his former profession in more than 30 years.

Under a long-standing agreement, teaching jobs are kept open for TDs.

Fianna Fáil Minister Pat Carey, another former teacher, confirmed he received a tax-free lump sum of €120,000. Mr Carey said he taught for 30 years and resigned his teaching position in 2008 when he was appointed a minister, adding that he was in receipt of a teaching pension.

A number of Fine Gael TDs are former teachers, including Donegal South West deputy Dinny McGinley who said he had resigned his post many years ago. “If I’m re-elected, I’ll be taking no teacher’s pension,” he said.

Other former teachers in Fine Gael include the party’s spokesman on finance Michael Noonan. Donegal North East TD Joe McHugh, Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell and Dublin South West’s Brian Hayes said they never held permanent posts so had no pension entitlements. One of Fine Gael’s candidates in Dún Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, is a school principal.

Mr Kenny’s fellow Mayo deputy John O’Mahony confirmed he was in receipt of a teacher’s pension, having retired before he was elected, but added that he presumed that sitting TDs will not be allowed to keep pensions from other professions in the future.

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said he had resigned his teaching post two years ago and deferred his pension entitlements.