Retiring teachers received almost €800m in pension payments last year, as hundreds opted to leave the profession. Overall, in 2009 there was a 56% rise in the number of primary and secondary teachers applying for retirement.
Figures show that €212m went towards an untaxed lump-sum payment given to each teacher upon retirement. A teacher working on an average salary gets a lump sum of about €100,000 under the current tax-free system. Fine Gael spokesman for education Brian Hayes said the figures are "astronomical. A massive number of teachers left in 2009. We have figures showing that one in every 10 principals and deputy principals left their job in those 12 months alone. Not only were they afraid their pension payments were about to be taxed in the budget, but they were also extremely demoralised.
"Given that the overall budget for primary and second level is €8bn, for one eighth of this to be going out towards pension payments is quite a stark figure," he added.
Figures show that €460m was given to primary teachers who left their posts, and €329m went to retiring secondary teachers in the 12-month period.
Overall, there was a total of 1,981 applications for retirement last year. This is 670 more applications than in 2008.
More than 250 principals retired from primary schools, while 68 principals retired from second-level education. Two hundred and sixty deputy principals retired in the same period.