Ministers would not allow their pensions to be handled as CIÉ treats company schemes, TD claims
Government accused of turning ‘blind eye’ to CIÉ’s handling of pension fund obligations
Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster: said the Cabinet had ignored the CIÉ pensions deficit for the past eight years. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
A Sinn Féin TD has claimed that Government Ministers would not allow their own pensions to be endangered in the way pensions of CIÉ workers were affected by an €80 million deficit.
Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster alleged the board of CIÉ was ignoring its legal obligations to guarantee the solvency of its pension schemes.
She accused the Government of “turning a blind eye” to the company’s failure, since 2009, to adhere to a ministerial directive that the board would “support and maintain the solvency of the fund”.
The Louth TD said the pension was currently underfunded by €80 million and the company had “jeopardised the solvency of both CIÉ pension scheme funds”.
She said successive ministers for transport – including the current Taoiseach and Minister for Finance – had known about the pensions issue, but the Cabinet had “ignored it for the past eight years”.
Ms Munster claimed the Government had allowed CIÉ to “show blatant disregard” for a ministerial order.
“I am quite sure it would not allow it to happen to its members’ pensions or should I say multiple pensions,” she said.
He “blasted the proposals at that time as very unfair and unreasonable. I sincerely hope he sees the seriousness of this issue for thousands of workers at CIÉ.”
Mr Coveney told her, however, that “with respect, the Deputy will have to ask some of those questions of the Minister”.
The Tánaiste said CIÉ “has a responsibility towards it pensioners and workers who will be future pensioners in terms of ensuring that pension funds are solvent”.
Insisting that the Government “has not ignored and will not ignore anything” Mr Coveney said they dealt with semi-State companies all the time in the context of all the pressures they face and this case was no different.
He said that “if money needs to be found within the CIÉ system to address pension deficits a process will have to be gone through and it will involve consultation with unions”.
Mr Coveney pointed out that many if not all the semi-State companies and agencies had sought to restructure pension funds and there was an obligation on the board and management of CIÉ to work with union representatives to make sure “there is an understanding around funding pension funds appropriately for the future”.