McAleese returns more than €500,000 in allowances


FORMER PRESIDENT Mary McAleese has voluntarily returned more than €500,000 to the State in personal allowance funds that she did not use during her two terms in office.

There were no conditions imposed for the use of these funds and no obligation on Mrs McAleese to return any unused sums during or at the end of her 14 years in the post.

The Presidential Allowance is provided to the head of state to cover certain costs associated with the office including all official hospitality at the residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.

This includes dinners, lunches, receptions, garden parties and visits by other heads of state, such as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama.

The allowance is currently €317,434, having been set at the Irish pound equivalent of £250,000 in 1998, prior to Ireland’s adoption of the euro. It has not been increased since.

Mrs McAleese has voluntarily returned to the State the unspent allowance amounting to €518,231.75, The Irish Times has learned. This underspend was accumulated over her full period in office.

The allowance was paid monthly into an Áras household account and drawn down as required.

Mrs McAleese has gifted the unused amount to the State in three separate tranches – December 2010 and November 2011, with the final transfer taking place last month.

The Presidential Establishment Act of 1938 and subsequent President Establishment (Amendment) Acts provide for the salary and allowances payable to the head of state.

The figure was increased from £120,000 to £250,000 in 1998 in an order signed by then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern who had previously raised it from £100,000 in 1997.

Mrs McAleese is currently in Rome where she is studying canon law.

In a separate development, in October 2008 Mrs McAleese announced she would take a voluntary 10 per cent cut in salary. This was repeated in 2009 and increased to 20 per cent in 2010. In 2010 Mrs McAleese voluntarily subscribed to the public service pay ceiling of €250,000 as outlined in Budget 2011. The total amount of salary surrendered by Mrs McAleese to the State is €168,047. The total amount she has returned in salary and allowances amounts to €686,278.75.

Mrs McAleese has also presented to the State more than €100,000 of gifts received during her terms of office.