IRELAND'S three high-profile European Union leaders, who receive ministerial pensions in excess of €100,000 on top of their six-figure salaries, this weekend refused to countenance giving up their entitlements despite the grave economic picture.
The government's nominee to become Ireland's next European commissioner, Maire Geoghegan- Quinn, received a combined state pension of well over €100,000 last year, despite already receiving an estimated €180,000-a-year salary as a member of the European Court of Auditors.
However, she has refused to say whether she would be willing to forego some or all of this payment when, as expected, she takes up her new role. This carries a basic annual salary of €238,000 plus significant relocation and other expense payments.
Outgoing EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy received a combined TD and ministerial pension of more than €125,000 from the state last year. This was in addition to his €238,000-plus annual salary for his EU role, which is also pensionable. He refused to comment when contacted by the Sunday Tribune.
Former taoiseach John Bruton was paid a total pension of more than €150,000 last year, in addition to his other earnings from his recently completed 'day job' as the EU's ambassador to the US.
Figures compiled by the Sunday Tribune, based on separate Department of Finance and Oireachtas Commission figures for TD and ministerial pension payments last year, also reveal that former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes was paid a total pension of €98,431 in 2008.
RTé reported on Friday that Dukes, who provides public-affairs consultancy services to leading media firm Wilson Hartnell PR, has received fees of €99,360 to date in his role as one of the state's two public-interest directors at Anglo Irish Bank.
Bruton and Dukes did not respond when asked by this newspaper if they would be willing to forego some or all of their pension payments in light of the current economic difficulties facing the state. The combined cost of providing separate TD and ministerial pensions to former Oireachtas members was almost €12.8m last year.
Geoghegan-Quinn was paid an ex-TD's pension of €44,381 in 2008 plus an additional €62,945 ministerial pension for 2008, bringing a combined total of more than €107,000, the figures show.
But a spokesman for the former justice minister, who left national politics in 1997, said she is focused on preparing for the forthcoming EU parliament hearing in relation to her nomination.
"She is only a nominated commissioner not a ratified commissioner. If she is successful at this EU parliament hearing, she will deal with these queries at that time," he said.
The failure of the former politicians to say whether they would be willing to forego some or all of their state pensions contrasts sharply with the approach of others, such as Irish Human Rights Commission president and former Fine Gael TD Maurice Manning.
Earlier this year, he told the Sunday Tribune that he would be foregoing slightly more than his €45,000-a-year basic ex-TD's pension in light of the current downturn, saying it was the "right thing to do".
A number of well-known MEPs, including Proinsias de Rossa and Gay Mitchell, have also agreed to forego their ministerial and TD pension entitlements.
A spokesman for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission confirmed that pension payments to ex-TDs are separate to ministerial pensions. They are also provided to recipients irrespective of other employment they might have entered into.