The disturbing revelation that 19 of 21 former senators are to receive lump sum payments over the next 13 months that average almost €229,000 per person is an outrageous affront to society. Eight of these were the nominees of the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern after some of them failed to win Dáil seats in the 2007 general election.
These payments to them are in addition to an annual pension pot of over a half million euro. The combined effect suggests that political patronage remains an extravagant gilt-edge gift that keeps on giving - irrespective of whether a politician is in, or out, of office. The impudent scale of them illustrates how immune and indifferent politicians are to the devastating impact of the economic collapse on everybody else and to the concept of affordability.
The 23rd Seanad sat for less than 100 days each year so the role of a senator is part-time and intermittent. Apart from a salary provision of €4.25 million in 2011, there is also provision this year to pay our part-time senators €1.38 million for travel expenses to attend the august institution and almost €1.25 million in other allowances – equivalent to average annual payment of almost €115,000 for their part-time service. Yet, each senator also has full-time secretarial support for the 140 working days that they are absent from the House each year.
If the Government really want the public to live within the means of the State more fervent example ought to be clearly evident from all branches of the Oireachtas and the establishment.
Our nation cannot afford an extravagant Senate, with an ambivalent mandate, which civic society has no part in choosing and which is not answerable to the people. The sooner the issue of its future is put to the electorate in a Constitutional referendum the better.