McAleese, Ahern and Cowen each paid €137,000 State pensions

Former president receives biggest payment of any former office holder or politician

Former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson and ex-taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen received the largest State pensions paid to ex-office holders last year.

Figures published by the Department of Finance yesterday also show the payments made to former ministers and attorneys general.

Ms McAleese received a pension of €137,749 in 2015. Ms Robinson was paid €121,158. Mr Ahern and Mr Cowen received pensions of €83,918 as officeholders.

Former TDs are entitled to a pension for their time as a deputy which is based on the number of years of service, with a cap at 20 years service. All of those in receipt of ministerial pensions would also get a pension for their service as a TD.


This means Mr Cowen and Mr Ahern would also have received TDs pensions of €53,291 on top of that, bringing their total pension entitlements last year to just over €137,000.

The department figures for officeholder pensions, show former taoiseach John Bruton received €75,713 while another ex-taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, received €49,119. Former minister for justice Michael McDowell got €67,456.

The total cost of ministerial pensions last year was €3.8 million with a further €854,000 paid to widows and children of former office holders. The total cost of pensions and retirement lump sums paid to former judges was €8.5 million.

There were also severance payments to ministers who resigned, with Alan Shatter paid €39,000 and Lucinda Creighton, a minister of state, receiving €5,389. President Michael D Higgins surrendered his ministerial pension to the State as he is serving as President, while former minister and European commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn surrendered €5,712 of her entitlement of €55,357.

Among the payments to former ministers were: Dermot Ahern, €56,669; David Andrews, €47,820; Niamh Bhreathnach, €34,669; George Birmingham, €18,731; and Peter Barry, €67,590.

Ray Burke got a ministerial pension of €43,992 while Ivor Callelly received €15,451.

Former minister for foreign affairs Gerry Collins received €37,157 and former minister for justice Patrick Cooney got €42,948. Ex-tánaiste Mary Coughlan got €27,069 while Alan Dukes received €47,219.

Pádraig Flynn

Former European commissioner and minister Pádraig Flynn got €34,573. Pat the Cope Gallagher received €33,341 in 2015 but will not be entitled to claim a pension this year as he is again serving as a TD.

Mary Hanafin received €51,178, while ex-tánaiste Mary Harney got €65,919, Charlie McCreevy got €56,920 and Jim McDaid €52,350. Mary O’Rourke got €54,738, Séamus Pattison €51,135, Dick Roche €46,012, Michael Smith €56,920, Dick Spring €58,554 and Michael Woods €55,800.

A TD who has also served at least two years as a minister is entitled to an office holder’s pension. The pension is worked out as a percentage of the office holder’s salary. After two years, a retiring minister is entitled to a pension equal to 20 per cent of his or her salary. After three years, this becomes 25 per cent, after four years 30 per cent and after five years 35 per cent.

The maximum entitlement is 60 per cent after 10 years’ service. Service as a minister of state is reckonable for ministerial pension calculations, with half the service accrued being counted for pension purposes.

The total cost of ministerial pensions in 2015 was €4.4 million. The cost of pensions paid to retired judges and their dependents was higher again. The total came to €8.5 million but no breakdown of names is provided as with former ministers.

Among former attorneys general, the top pensioner was former chief justice John Murray who received €67,997. Harry Whelehan received €54,613, Peter Sutherland €50,085, John Rogers €45,486, Dermot Gleeson €48,501 and David Byrne €43,640.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times