Consultants main recipients of high pensions, Burton says

Uproar when Tánaiste says no Independents offered to give up leader’s allowance

Independent TD John Halligan clashed with the Tánaiste in the Dáil. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Independent TD John Halligan clashed with the Tánaiste in the Dáil. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Medical consultants are the principal recipients of high- level State pensions, Tánaiste Joan Burton has claimed, as she faced pressure for moves to stop former taoisigh and senior ministers receiving pension increases.

During a rowdy and heated session of Dáil Leaders’ Questions, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice demanded legislation be introduced to stop the increases of up to €2,000. They arose from the unwinding of emergency laws introduced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, when the economy collapsed.

Mr Fitzmaurice said “the kick in the teeth” for people was the news that “top politicians and former taoisigh” would “end up with €136,000 to look out the window at home and smile at Ireland”.

During his first Leaders’ Questions Mr Fitzmaurice said: “We can’t have banks closing in on families throughout the country and at the same time give €2,000 to the fat cats.”

Previous government

She caused uproar on the Opposition benches when she said: “I didn’t see the Independents offering the €41,000 allowance that each of you get on a tax-free basis.”

“Yes we did,” retorted Independent John Halligan, adding that “the Government parties get millions”.

Independents each receive a “leader’s allowance” and political parties also receive State funding for each TD elected.

Ms Burton said that under the emergency legislation, pensions were cut by 20 per cent but with economic recovery, the legal advice was that the emergency legislation should be unwound.

‘Honourable action’

“I don’t see why anyone in this country who is paid for out of public funds should earn a pension in excess of €100,000,” she said, adding that they should do it on a voluntary basis.

However an outraged Mr Fitzmaurice said: “If you listen to the waffle that’s after coming out, you would lose the will to be in here because the same ding-dong goes on around here and no one answers a question straight.”

The Roscommon-South Leitrim TD said many families were struggling to put their children through college on incomes of under €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000 and the increases in politicians’ pensions would pay for extra home help hours for people who had just 30 minutes of assistance in the morning.

When Ms Burton, who said the Government had cut salaries and pensions when it came into office, suggested the Independents should not take their allowances, she sparked a wave of heckling and Leas Cheann Comhairle Micheál Kitt had to threaten to suspend proceedings before some order was restored.