herald

Monday 20 August 2018

'Kenny's handlers did not gag me over his pensions'

THE Newstalk presenter at the centre of a censorship storm has said he wasn't gagged by Enda.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were engaged in a war of words today after it was alleged Enda Kenny's aides prevented a journalist asking him about his pension benefits.

But Newstalk Breakfast host Chris Donoghue told the Herald that the whole incident had been a big mix-up.

He said that he was wrong to depict a scenario where Fine Gael had suggested that questions about Mr Kenny's €100,000 teaching pension issue were off-limits.

"What I said to Micheal Martin on air yesterday was wrong and the painting of preconditions was not true," he told the Herald.

The row started during a live radio interview with Mr Martin where the presenter stated that Fine Gael had "just asked that the pension wouldn't be spoken about, that he wouldn't be making comments about it".

A source at Newstalk told the Herald today that there was some "small talk" before the interview on Sunday but "at no time did Enda or anyone in Fine Gael say anything was off-limits".

Moments before the interview, Mr Kenny had declared in front of around 500 people and all the main media outlets that he would not accept "one red cent" from his €100,000 teaching pension.

A Fine Gael source said they felt the issue had been dealt with and therefore wasn't brought up in the course of the interview.

The party's director of elections Phil Hogan said "absolutely no preconditions were set for an interview". This was backed up by a statement on Newstalk's website.



Clean-up

But Fianna Fail claimed that there were "a lot of clean-up efforts going on".

Former Newstalk presenter Mark Mortell is now a Fine Gael media advisor and Fianna Fail's John Curran alleged that there was a "cover-up" taking pace.

The row continued as it emerged that up to 20 teacher-turned-politicians are in line for a double or triple pension. Although some left the classroom decades ago, they are still entitled to five and six-figure lump sums.

The list includes outgoing Cabinet ministers Mary Hanafin, Pat Carey and recently retired Noel Dempsey, Tony Killeen and Batt O'Keeffe.

There is intensifying pressure on TDs to forego their payments after Mr Enda Kenny gave up his pension, which is due in April.

So far, just seven of 25 teachers contesting the election have indicated that they will not draw a teacher's or lecturer's pension.

Fianna Fail's Mary O'Rourke led the way on the issue as she gave up her teaching position and all entitlements when she was first elected to the Dail.

Only yesterday did Micheal Martin commit to officially resigning from his position at the end of the current academic year.

Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan is receiving €10,800 a year but has now said that he will give it to the Exchequer temporarily if nominated for Cabinet after the election.

Under new guidelines being introduced by the Department of Education, teacher-TDs and senators will only be able to keep their old jobs open for up to 10 years.

They will also be barred from chalking up both teaching and Oireachtas pensions at the same time.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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