Over a hundred former government ministers are sharing an annual cash pot of almost nine million euro, it has been revealed. The figures were supplied in response to a Sinn Fein parliamentary question.
Thirty of the ministers awarded themselves ‘pensions’ of up to a hundred and fifty thousand euro ($200,000) a year -- although many remain engaged in lucrative full-time employment and some, such as former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, are in their late forties or early fifties.
Other recipients include disgraced former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, also considered to have been responsible for Ireland’s economic collapse, and former minister Ray Burke, who, although convicted of both perjury and tax offences, receives 103,000 euro annually.
The total amounts to an 8.8 million euro payout every year at the expense of the Irish people.
“The fact that this level of payments is being paid to former ministers when we are facing into one of the harshest budgets in history is a scandal,” said Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
“Many of the people on this list are the architects of our economic downfall and of the hardships being faced by hundreds of thousands of Irish people today.
“Sinn Fein would suspend full pension payments for former ministers who have not reached pensionable age. We would ensure that former ministers who are employed by the state or by an EU institution would no be eligible to claim both their pension and their salary.
“And we would reduce their pensions in line with our proposals as published in our bill earlier this year.”
Meanwhile, the Dublin government continues to extract cash from the general public rather than high earners and those who profited from the 26-County bust-boom-bust economy.
It was revealed last week that 700 million euro will soon be cut from the budget of the Department of Social Protection to help fund the continuing payouts to the wealthy elite and certain special interests, such as bank bondholders.
The immediate victims of the cuts are expected to be the unemployed, care workers, those in receipt of the state pension and those who depend on state medical cards.
The cuts will form part of 3.8 billion euro in cuts and taxes set to be announced in the budget, which sets out the government’s fiscal plans for the year 2012. Some 1.6 billion euro, or 42 per cent of the adjustment will come from tax increases, with the remainder - 2.2 billion - achieved through spending cuts.
Changes to the VAT rate (sales tax), property charges, a 100 euro household charge and taxes on fuel and electricity are the target areas for taxation, Minister of Finance Michael Noonan said.
Noonan claimed that, on the orders of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the 26-County state is required to decrease the size of its budget deficit over the next four years to below 3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2015. Currently that budget deficit stands at about 10.3 per cent, according to official figures.
Another measure said to be mandated by the EU/IMF fiscal oversight body is an increase of 2% in tax on sales, bringing the VAT rate for most goods and services to 23%.
Mr Noonan said he expects the debt to GDP ratio to peak at 118 per cent in 2013.
Meanwhile, the civil servant responsible for making 3.6 billion euro disappear, only for it to be uncovered on the book of the state’s Housing Finance Agency, is to be give a senior European Union job, despite calls for his resignation.
Kevin Cardiff became the butt of international jokes after he was linked to the ‘accounting error’, as it was described by the government. The giant sum is almost equal to all of the new cuts and taxes in this year’s budget, and its discovery has raised concerns over other ‘disappearances’ from the state’s accounts.
Despite provoking further ridicule, Dublin officials have insisted that Cardiff will remain the government’s nominee to join the European Court of Auditors early next year.
And tonight, the government’s failure to instruct the state’s bailed-out bankers to lower mortgage interest rates in line with European interest rates has been described as “pathetic” by Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty.
The bankers have been accused of gouging Irish mortgage holders by charging usurious interest rates.
The Donegal deputy called on the government to “urgently bring forward legislation that will force banks to pass on interest rate reductions to struggling mortgage holders.”
“Across the country hundreds of families are falling into serious mortgage distress every week,” he said.
“When in opposition Fine Gael and Labour criticised the failure of Fianna Fail to take action to deal with the mortgage crisis. Now in office they are pursuing the same hands off minimalist approach as their predecessors.”