Highway robbery as fat cats help themselves

It was revealed that there are 192 people on trolleys awaiting treatment in hospitals around the 26 Counties this evening as it emerged that the Department of Health ignored legal limits in setting the salary for the new chief executive of the Health Service Executive.

Department of Health documentation, released under the Freedom of Information Act, indicates the new head of the Health Service Executive Cathal Magee was offered a salary package for the post of about 400,000, more than 170,000 euro above the official publicised rate for the post.

Meanwhile, nurses said that St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin has the highest number of patients awaiting beds at 33, with 22 at Wexford General Hospital.

A shortage of funds in the health system has left hundreds of seriously ill patients languishing on trolleys in corridors and store rooms, but has not prevented the obscene salary inflation among senior public servants

There has again been criticism of the multi-million euro pensions, ‘lump sums’ and ‘luck money’ which senior public servants are paying themselves.

Fien Gael has pointed up the six-month tax free severance payment that senior civil servants award themselves to “top up” or increase their pensionable salary.

It also called for a review of ex-gratia payments of one and a half years’ salary paid to the most senior public servants as it emerged that they received 10.5 million euro in pension severance packages in the past five years alone.

Meanwhile, plans by the coalition government to impose new tolls on relatively minor national roads as well as additional tolls on Irish motorways have been strongly criticised.

Sinn Fein’s Martin Ferris said that the plan was a “cynical extra tax” and “ill thought-out”.

“The idea that the N-road network should be sectioned and divided with tolls and toll booths is outrageous.

“It is clear that very little thought has been put into the proposal and is simply a reactionary measure based on the Government’s panic to find quick fixes to the economic crisis in this State.

“What thought has been given to the practical difficulties and cost of the implementation of such a scheme? How much is the implementation going to cost to run and maintain in itself? How will toll dodging be stopped?

“It has been claimed that the introduction of tolls on the national infrastructure will be an incentive for people to use other transport. Which other transport?”

Meanwhile, airports, ports, the national broadcaster (RTE) and electricity network (ESB) have been included in a list of State-owned companies that are being readied for potential sale in an effort to fund the ongoing bail-out of Irish bankers and developers.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has announced that he has appointed economist Colm McCarthy, who led the body that recommended 5 billion euro in public service cuts last year, to chair the new Review Group on State Assets.

It is charged with looking at the possibility of disposing of public-sector assets, including commercial State companies.

Other Irish semi-state companies which could go under the hammer in the national fire sale inclue the rail service, Iarnród Éireann and turf development board, Bord na Móna, it was reported.

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