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News : Irish Last Updated: Oct 23, 2009 - 7:08:00 AM


Fianna Fáil senators lobbied for increased wages/ pensions for councillor "constituents"
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Oct 22, 2009 - 4:35:59 AM

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The Seanad Chamber - - which was used as a ballroom when owned by the Duke of Leinster

Before the last general election, Fianna Fáil senators lobbied for increased wages and pensions for their councillor "constituents" and they succeeded. Now with the part-time jobs of all senators under threat, the abolition of the Seanad Upper House of the Irish Parliament has prompted comparisons with 1930s fascism. It's all about democracy and the taboo human trait "self-interest," of course has nothing to do with the reaction.

This week provided another opportunity to see the tableau of a modern economy and failed 1920's era governance system, which largely reflects the British inheritance.

It was widely reported that on Monday, there were angry scenes at a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, where more than 20 speakers criticised the Cabinet-approved plan which would see the blood alcohol content limit for motorists reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood - - the typical European level.

It's a fair bet that most of these individuals could speak more coherently about drink than about the banking crisis.

It's difficult to bring change to conservative Ireland and last May, veteran commentator Vincent Browne lamented economist George Lee's decision to "join the ranks of political wafflers" by standing for the Dáil.

Browne, the insiders' "nattering nabob of negativism," appears to be also resistant to change and this week joined the vested interests in attacking Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny's proposal for abolition of the Seanad and reform of the Dáil.

The default reaction is to question the motive and rubbish the proposal by asking why didn't he advocate what's being done in x or y country?

It would be just a start and as we have advocated, ending the culture of Victorian secrecy by providing transparency on public spending, would be a bigger one.

The treble-jobbing Browne opts for the status quo unless his undefined benchmark of an equal society, is in sight.

Before the 2007 general election, elected part-time local councillors were seeking increases in their payments, expenses and lump sum pensions.

The total of about 900 are the electors of 43 members of the 60-member Seanad.

Fianna Fáil senators met with the then Minister for the Environment Dick Roche to discuss the financial position for councillors. They wanted improvements in the allowances and gratuity. All 28 senators signed a letter sent out on headed paper by the Fianna Fáil Seanad Group to councillors nationwide, who saw it as a clear sign the Seanad election campaign was on the horizon.

For councillors retiring after 20 years of service Roche agreed toup the tax-free lump sum to €64,000 - a rise of €16,000.

By the time of the local elections last June, the lump sum had risen to €70,416.

In 2005, the highest paid councillor earned almost €83,000, according to an Irish Independent survey.

Roche agreed annual pay hikes of up to €6,000.

As a counter to those who stupidly claim that everyone was rolling in money during the boom, it's well to keep in mind that  the majority of private sector workers do not even have a basic occupational pension, while part-time councillors can collect over €70,000 in a tax-free lump sum.

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