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Cowen and Bertie under pressure to refuse 'disgusting' pension boosts

Several former cabinet ministers are in line for pension increases under the new public sector pay deal.

Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen
Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen
Image: Julien Behal

FORMER TAOISIGH AND ministers who are in line for pensions boosts of up to €1,680 are under pressure to refuse the payments this evening.

Under the recently agreed Lansdowne Road public sector deal former government ministers, including ex-taoisigh Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern, are in line for increases in their annual pensions.

The Sunday Times reported last weekend that the maximum increase is in the region of €1,680 and will see, for example, Cowen’s pension payment increase from around €134,000 to nearly €136,000.

Speaking to reporters in Milan this evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:

I would say to the small number involved here, they’re former politicians, we’re in a fragile position economically. I would say to them: refuse the increase that is coming back.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan made similar comments on Newstalk earlier, telling Pat Kenny “the optics are bad” and that the small group of ex-ministers “should voluntarily give the increase to the exchequer”.

00117769 Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny

It would be a good idea. I am suggesting it, you know.

The comments come on foot of criticism of increases at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party in Leinster House last night.

Several backbench deputies raised the issue with it understood that Kerry South TD Brendan Griffin described the proposed increases as “disgusting”.

Other backbenchers, including Jerry Buttimer, Anthony Lawlor and Alan Farrell, called for legislation to prevent the increases in the case of former ministers.

The Department of Public Expenditure, which negotiated the deal, has insisted that overall in the public sector the increases are weighted towards civil servants at the lower end of the pay scale.

Noonan explained earlier that Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin had been advised that in restoring pensions to low-paid people in the public sector there is no legal way of preventing a certain group from having their payments increased.

Therefore the group of former government ministers cannot be excluded, Noonan said.

Read: Former ministers to get pension boost, but one thinks the country “isn’t ready” yet

Read: 11 things we learned on Brian Cowen’s final day at the banking inquiry

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Hugh O'Connell

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