Big lump-sum payoffs for public-sector retirees

Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan may have received €262,000

Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan shared a pension lump-sum payoff of €1.853 million with nine of her high-ranking colleagues last year.

New figures show that, last year, gardaí retiring from the force shared pension lump sum payoffs of €22.2 million – down marginally on the €22.5 million paid out in 2016.

The highest lump sum paid out was €262,000, with two other high-ranking gardaí receiving €207,000 each, while four other senior gardaí­ received lump-sum payoffs between €170,000 and €176,000.

The identity of the senior garda to receive the highest amount is not disclosed but by virtue of her €180,613 salary, Ms O’Sullivan would have received one of the top sums – if not the highest amount – paid out.


Last year, three assistant commissioners – Michael O'Sullivan, Jack Nolan and John O'Mahoney – also stepped down and would also have been in line for substantial payoffs.

Along with the commissioner and three assistant commissioners, six chief superintendents and nine superintendents also retired.

All would have made pensions contributions during their decades of service with the Garda.

Ms O’Sullivan’s pension payoff is based on her final salary of €180,613 and, in common with other members retiring with full pension entitlements, she will receive an annual pension of half her pensionable pay and would have received a lump sum of 1½ times her pensionable pay.

In total, the amount paid out in pension lump sum payoffs to the top 20 totalled €3.2 million.

The Department of Justice yesterday declined to reveal the pension lump-sum payment to Ms O’Sullivan. A spokesman said: “The department is not in a position to reveal the personal details of recipients of pension payments.”

Members of An Garda Síochána who joined the organisation prior to April 1st, 2004, may retire on full pension once they have served for at least 30 years and they have reached 50 years of age.

Members who joined the organisation on or after April 1st, 2004, can retire on full pension once they have served at least 30 years and have reached 55 years of age.

HSE lump sums

The pension payouts to Ms O’Sullivan and her colleagues are considerably lower than pension lump-sum payoffs enjoyed by consultants employed by the Health Service Executive.

Last year, one consultant psychiatrist received a lump-sum payment of €357,738 as part of €111.31 million in lump-sum pension payments paid out by the HSE.

This was a 6 per cent increase on the €104.33 million paid out in 2016.

The consultant psychiatrist, who worked with adults with learning disabilities in the HSE Dublin North East region, was one of four consultants to receive lump-sum payoffs in excess of €300,000.

The others were a consultant physician in the HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster region who received €350,471; a consultant general physician in the HSE West who received €323,878 and a consultant psychiatrist in the psychiatry of old age in HSE West who received €310,743.

A further 16 consultants received pension payments of between €200,000 and €300,000 with 174 receiving lump sums between €100,000 and €200,000.

The top 25 consultants shared a lump-sum pay pot of €6.5 million – or an average of €261,000 each.

The amount paid out in lump sums by the HSE has been steadily increasing since 2013 and has gone up by 56 per cent from €71 million in 2013 to €111 million last year.

This has contributed to the HSE’s pension bill over 2016 and 2015 topping €600 million for each year.

In 2016, the HSE paid out €656 million in pensions between lump sums and continuing pension payments and this followed a pensions payout of €624 million in 2015.

The 2016 payout is a 16 per cent or €90 million increase on the €566 million paid out in 2013.

The pension lump sum payouts are down on the €174.85 million paid out in 2012 and the €136.8 million paid out in 2011 when there was a major exodus from the HSE following incentives put in place by government.

The first €200,000 in lump-sum payments is tax free.

Amounts in excess of this tax-free limit are subject to tax in two stages – except for specified exclusions. The portion between €200,000 and €575,000 is taxed at the standard rate on 20 per cent while any portion above that is taxed at the individuals’ marginal rate of tax.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times