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All TDs who lost their seats in the last election have paid back their 'parachute' payments

Termination payments made to TDs and senators amounted to €2m.

Termination payments are made to politicians who lose their seats.
Termination payments are made to politicians who lose their seats.
Image: Shutterstock/lunopark

ALL TDS WHO unsuccessfully stood in the general election but were elected to the Seanad have returned the ‘parachute’ payments they received when they lost their seats. 

A termination payment is paid to departing TDs and senators who lose their seats to help them while they look for a new job, and is usually worth approximately two months’ salary.

In previous years, there has been controversy over the delay in politicians returning the payment.

In 2017, TheJournal.ie revealed a former Fine Gael senator had not fully repaid the large allowance amounting to over €30,904. The full amount was later repaid.

In order to keep the payment, the TD or senator must not become a member of the following Oireachtas or immediately become an MEP or be appointed by the government to a full-time position.

In addition to a termination lump sum, a maximum of 12 monthly termination payments
are also payable.

For example, a TD with 14 years’ service or more would get a parachute payment of €16,031.50 (2 months’ salary). They would also be entitled to six monthly payments of €6,011.83 (75% of salary) and six further monthly payments of €4,007.87 (50% of salary).

Under the Freedom of Information Act, information released shows that 64 politicians were in receipt of termination payments amounting to €2,080,795.94.

The Oireachtas states that “no termination payments that were required to be repaid have not been repaid”.

Former TDs who lost their seat in February’s election are Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne, Pat Casey, Shane Cassels, Lisa Chambers, Timmy Dooley, Eugene Murphy and Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy, Regina Doherty, and Sean Kyne.

In previous years, the sum of the payment paid out to politicians has been released to the media under FOI. However, it was refused on this occasion, citing a recent decision of the Office of the Information Commission.

In the case, which was related to the pension payments made to politicians, the commission essentially said that while work committed during the course of a minister’s duties can be made available via a Freedom of Information request, that must be separated out from that individual’s financial affairs. 

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The Information Commissioner said: “Essentially when considering the exclusion, a distinction must be drawn between the role of a public servant or officeholder and the privacy rights of that same individual regarding his or her private employment and financial affairs.

In my view, the plain language of the FOI Act strikes this balance by excluding work and role related functions from the definition of personal information but including details relating to matters such as personnel files and financial affairs.

Furthermore, it was determined that details of payments to government ministers and ex-Taoisigh “cannot reasonably be described as information relating either to the terms upon and subject to which they held office”. 

In its decision letter, refusing to disclose the level of termination payments made to each senator and TD, the Oireachtas said: “It is clear from the OIC decision that it considers details of precise payments to former Members to be personal information… termination payments/lump sum payments to former members relate to the financial affairs of individuals, and, therefore, meet the definition of personal information…”.

A great deal of information about the inner workings of government and other public bodies comes into the public domain through such FOI requests such as  herehere and here

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