Dail Sketch: Gravy trail keeps on chugging for the boys

Miriam Lord listens to what the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and Joan Collins have to say in Leinster House

Joan Collins of the Technical Group injected a dose of reality by  telling of Annie from Ballyfermot who had her widow’s contributory pension cut off due to a ‘random controlled check’.

Joan Collins of the Technical Group injected a dose of reality by telling of Annie from Ballyfermot who had her widow’s contributory pension cut off due to a ‘random controlled check’.


And there comes the great day for the senior boys and girls when they get the key to the executive loo. This is what sets them apart.

There is, of course, an orientation session for the newbies, as per the report compiled by the consultants.

“Now lads. Pay attention, here because this is the important bit. There, on the left you have your cold tap. There, on the right you have your hot tap.

“And you may be wondering what that big one in the middle is for. That, lads, is the tap for the gravy. Unlimited gravy – legal and above board – because that’s the way the system works.

“Happy days, wha’!”

It’s a bit tricky for the political class to criticise those lucky executives who slide seamlessly from one well-paid position on the State payroll to another, only pausing long enough to collect a huge gratuity and fat pension.

Why? Because the gravy has been on tap in Leinster House for as long as anyone can remember.

Former leaders, ministers, junior ministers, legal eagles, official advisers and the like – still wallowing in the State’s gravy although their days in the corridors of power are over.

So the Fianna Fáil leader was an easy target for the Taoiseach yesterday when he kept asking Enda whether he thinks it right that top-level officials can skedaddle with their lump sums and pensions into a similar number with the same employer – the put-upon Irish public.

Well, that’s rich coming from Micheál Martin, huffed the Taoiseach, what with the amount of loot his lot took away from the national coffers when they left office, and most of them way off retirement age.

But never mind that. Things are supposed to be different now. So, what does Enda think? Is it right?

As a man of the people, the Taoiseach must be aware of what the public thinks: this situation stinks.

Of course, this sort of thing happens in the private corporate sector too. Like their well-suited counterparts in the public sphere, many of them look forward to their golden days of R&R too.

Retire and rehire
No, stupid, it’s not rest and recuperation. For them R&R stands for retire and rehire.

There is a difference, though, for the golden generation of executives who have gone from the likes of Bord Gáis and sundry local authorities to Irish Water.

It’s understandable that the new utility would desire to poach these experienced managers for their start-up venture. What sticks in the craw is that they are entitled to pick up a hefty premium for jumping from the mother ship to another luxury cruiser.

This generally doesn’t happen in the real world, where staff moving on are handed their belongings in a cardboard box and told to surrender their swipe card to security.

Recent events show that the top brass in the public service appear to have access to a special Jobsbridge for the Boys scheme. Is this right? That’s all Micheál Martin wanted to know.

“Is it right that somebody who worked in the public service, who retired, who took their lump sum payment and their pension should be re-employed in the public service?” asked Enda, repeating the question.

Apparently, it is.

“Don’t you know, Deputy Martin, [that] for many years a system has applied there – are we to change it now?”

Serene waters
The Dáil was grateful to move on to the more serene waters of the charity sector. In light of the CRC shambles and the questions over Rehab’s fundraising operation, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams wanted to know when the Government would implement all the provisions of the 2009 Charities Act.

It was at the point that we pondered what goes on in Kenny’s head. Here’s the beginning of his reply: “Let me say to you, Deputy Adams, that, on coming into Government, many of the political carpets that have been lifted, many of the financial carpets that have been lifted in the past period, have been infested with maggots . . . Now, this Government is in the business of clearing
up a legacy of untold proportions . . . ”

Maggots. In the carpets, no less. The rugs were only walking in Government Buildings when he moved in. No wonder he paused for effect when imparting this horrifying news.

How we got from superannuated job-squatters in the public service to maggots in the carpets is a testament to the Taoiseach’s ability to talk around awkward questions.

Joan Collins of the Technical Group injected a dose of reality. Speaking of pensions and entitlements, and how it appears to be impossible to touch the benefits enjoyed by the executive loo brigade, Joan talked about Annie (79) from Ballyfermot. She’s on a pension too. A widow’s contributory pension of €12,000 a year, which doesn’t buy a lot of gravy. She went to the post office to collect it on Friday and was told it had been cut off due to a “random controlled check”.

“She has no money,” said Joan. And she was grilled inside out by the social welfare just in case she might have been dead and fraudulently claiming.

Enda sympathised, but fraud has to be stamped out. Not that he was saying a decent woman like Annie wasn’t entitled to her pension. He’d bring up the matter with the Minister because Annie should get her entitlement.

Just like the Jobsbridge for the Boys brigade, all things being equal.