The payment of a ‘retirement gratuity’ to TDs and Senators who leave their seats on local authorities to take up seats in the Oireachtas is inappropriate, according to a Galway TD.
Three Galway TDs are eligible for the retirement gratuity, which is paid to councillors who have sat on county or city councils for two years or more up to a maximum of 20 years, and is payable when the individual reaches 50 years of age.
Deputy Brian Walsh, his party and constituency colleague Sean Kyne and East Galway TD Colm Keaveney will be eligible for the gratuity when they turn 50.
Deputy Walsh served on Galway City Council from 2004 until his election to the Dáil in 2011, while Deputies Kyne and Keaveney served on Galway County Council for the same period.
Under the Local Government Act 2001, all three would be entitled to claim retirement gratuities in the region of €20,000 for their time spent on local authorities.
However Deputy Walsh said that when the time came, he would not be claiming any retirement gratuity.
“It isn’t appropriate for me. I’m in a salaried position now and any payment over and above that wouldn’t be something that I’d be pursuing,” he said.
“The council job is a part-time job, although it does consume a huge amount of hours and a lot of councillors are working full 40-hour weeks in the job. You’re reimbursed, to my mind, adequately for any expenses that are incurred in terms of telephone or broadband or postage or anything like that,” he added.
Galway East Labour TD Colm Keaveney said he was unaware of the details of the gratuity and could not adequately comment on it.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I’m a long way away from 50. It isn’t something I’ve considered,” said Deputy Keaveney.
Galway West Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne said that politics was a very unstable career, and that he would have to examine his circumstances at the time before making a decision.
“So, if I’m out of politics, and I’m not in other employment, well then certainly it will be something I will have to consider at the time,” he said.
Deputy Kyne said gratuities such as this were negotiated in better times and would likely be subject to review as part of a review of local authorities.
Meanwhile, Galway City Councillor Michael Crowe has defended the payments he received from Galway City Council in 2011, after national media reported that he received €61,832 last year.
Cllr Crowe said he had no reason to doubt the veracity of the reports, but that he had not totted up his earnings from last year and was not currently in a position to dispute that figure.
However, he said the fact that he was Mayor of Galway City for six months of 2011 had increased his earnings in that year, and accounted for €26,000 to €27,000 of the €61,832. He said his chairing of the Strategic Policy Committee on Transport had also added to his earnings.
However, Cllr Hildegarde Naughton, who also held the position of Mayor of Galway City for six months during 2011 received €14,840 less during the same period, netting €46,992.
“Possibly, some of my expenses may have been higher, I don’t know. I’m not in a position to explain anybody else’s position, I’m only in a position to explain my own,” said Cllr Crowe.
Councillor Crowe said he believed there were too many councillors in the country, and that the numbers needed to be trimmed back.
“I would have no argument with looking at the various expenses or whatever else,” he added.