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Wednesday 12 December 2018

Senator repays €14k after breaking golden handshake rules

Fine Gael Senator Ray Butler
Fine Gael Senator Ray Butler

A Fine Gael senator who received a €30,000 golden handshake when he lost his Dail seat, on condition that he would not become a member of the Seanad, has repaid €14,000.

Ray Butler accepted a total of €30,904 in termination payments from the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission when he lost his seat as a TD for Meath West in the last General Election.

The payments are made on the basis that the recipient ceases to be an Oireachtas member, and Mr Butler signed a declaration indicating that he would not subsequently consent to being nominated to the Seanad.

However, he accepted the nomination of then taoiseach Enda Kenny and was appointed to the Upper House on May 27, 2016 - just three months after losing his Dail seat.

The taxpayer-funded termination payments immediately became repayable when Mr Butler breached the condition by resuming his employment as a member of the Oireachtas.

Instalments

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Houses of the Oireachtas initially wrote to him seven times seeking to recoup the money without success.

Mr Butler replied by letter on September 21, 2016, and said that he was "not in a financial position presently to repay this lump sum in its entirety" and suggested repaying the money by instalments "in accordance with my financial capabilities".

He was advised that repayment by instalments was not possible but, following a meeting with the Ceann Comhairle and the Clerk of the Dail, an arrangement was put in place for him to repay €1,000 a month.

Newly-released records reveal that Mr Butler has now repaid €14,000, and is on course to have repaid the entire amount by the end of this year.

It emerged last year that a compound interest rate of 4pc, which was stipulated in the declaration signed by Mr Butler, had been waived. It could have amounted to almost €2,000 over the repayment period.

Mr Butler did not respond to a request for comment, but previously described the requirement to repay the money as "a ridiculous rule".

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