A FIANNA Fail councillor has warned the party will remain in the political wilderness if it doesn’t demand massive reductions in pensions to former ministers which inflated wildly “on the party’s watch”.
At a meeting of the Rathkeale comhairle ceantair, Cllr Kevin Sheahan called on Deputy Niall Collins to “take the message to Dublin” that the pensions needed to be cut “at least in half”.
Former minister Gerry Collins - who has a combined TD’s and minister’s pension package in excess of €102,000 per annum according to the latest figures - was present for Cllr Sheahan’s contribution but did not express a view.
Cllr Sheahan told the Leader that he had made reference at the Rathkeale meeting to cutting the pensions of ministers in the last Fianna Fail government, who he said had the greatest culpability. But it was his view that the combined pensions of all former ministers - not just those serving under Brian Cowen or Bertie Ahern - should be at least halved.
“I spoke of the anger of the people over members of the previous cabinet receiving very handsome pensions and that if our finance spokesperson was presenting a Fianna Fail version of the budget, that should include a cutting in half of those ministerial pensions.”
Des O’Malley - at €106,722 - has the highest annual pension of any former Limerick minister or minister of state. He is followed by Gerry Collins (€102,565), Fine Gael’s Tom O’Donnell (€85,797), Fianna Fail’s Michael J. Noonan (€80,684) and the Progressive Democrats Tim O’Malley (€31,193). These figures include their TDs and ministerial pensions.
As a former cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Fianna Fail’s Rory Kiely is also entitled to a ministerial pension and pulls in a total package of €52,324. Gerry Collins and Tom O’Donnell are also entitled to an MEP’s pension.
“We have former politicians who are on pensions of several hundred euro a working day. What could they possibly spend it on in their twilight years? Particularly, as I have already said, when we have so many ordinary people who can’t afford to put the proverbial tin of beans over the spuds,” said Cllr Sheahan, Askeaton.
At the meeting, he reminded members of Phil Hogan’s pre-election appeal to disillusioned Fianna Fail voters to vote for Fine Gael just this once.
“A lot of Fianna Fail people did that and we as a party need to find a way to smooth the path back for them. Now it is Fine Gael’s turn to feel what the disillusionment of the public is and we need to be responsive to what the people are saying. That’s why I said at the meeting that I was asking Niall Collins to taker the message back to Dublin and he said he would.”
“Fianna Fail has no authority to question outrageous bankers pensions so long as they don’t do anything about ministers pension. It was on our watch that they grew so wildly and it is our moral responsibility now to see those pensions reduced because the country can no longer afford it.”
Deputy Collins said “I was asked by Kevin to bring the message back to Dublin and I have done that”.
He had discussed the matter with party leader Micheal Martin, whose imminent visit to Limerick afforded Fianna Fail members another opportunity to make their views known.
Political pensions, Deputy Collins said, had been “discussed in the Dail again only today and Fianna Fail will be considering that debate in full in the context of the upcoming budget”.
Cllr Sheahan, meanwhile, flatly denied that his call for dramatic pension cuts was rooted in internal Fianna Fail rivalries.
“I’m not having a crack off the Collins’ or anybody else. This is not about personalities. I am the conduit bringing back to the party what the people are saying. That’s what I have always done and that’s what I’ll continue to do as long as they are happy to have me representing them,” he declared.