Sinn Féin: ‘Truly demented’ to restore €1,700 to Cowen’s pension

However, Howlin says it is unconstitutional to penalise certain public service recipients

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen is due for a pension rise under the Public Interest Bill. Photograph: Eric Luke

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen is due for a pension rise under the Public Interest Bill. Photograph: Eric Luke

Brian Cowen

In a row over the restoration of pay and pensions to public servants who took pay cuts when the economy crashed, Ms McDonald called the inclusion of former taoisigh and ministers in the payback “disgraceful”.

But Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin rounded on the Dublin Central TD and accused her of playing politics.

He said she knew well that not to restore the pensions of former taoisigh and ministers’ pensions “would collapse the Bill constitutionally”.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill “cannot selectively penalise a particular cohort of public service pensioners”, Mr Howlin said.

During question time in the Dáil, the Minister described the Government’s legislation as a “highly progressive programme of pension restoration”.

He said the Government decided that current Ministers and their special advisers should not avail of a pay and pension restoration provided for in the Bill.

Voluntary in nature

Restoration would be made to Mr Cowen, “who is struggling manfully on a pension of €134,000 or [former taoiseach] John Bruton on a pension of €126,000”.

She asked: “What of ‘we have it so we’ll spend it’ former finance minister Charlie McCreevy, who is on €108,000?”

Ms McDonald said that former minister of state Ivor Callely, “who has a conviction for mobile phone expenses fraud, is on a pension of €62,000” and that former minister Ray Burke “has a conviction for tax offences and yet he is has over €95,000”.

She hit out at Mr Howlin for the move to reinstate and “bump up those disgraceful pension levels”.

Ms McDonald said the advantage conferred on former taoisigh and ministers is “self evident in the eye-watering levels of pension they enjoy”.

Those pensions are indefensible, were always indefensible, but particularly so given the era of austerity that has been visited on people by “some of the very same individuals who are on grossly excessive pensions”.

Crash and chaos

“But, by God, how anybody could argue that that pension should be bumped up by a further €1,600 or €1,700 is truly demented”.

But stressing that pensions were constitutionally protected, Mr Howlin said: “You cannot select one cohort of public sector pensioners and say ‘I’m going to remove yours’.”

The legislation “will significantly favour lower paid public pensioners”, with maximum restoration at €400 next year, €500 in 2017 and €708 in 2018.