herald

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Varadkar backed €300k-a-year plan to support ex-taoisigh

Mr Varadkar agreed the plan. Photo: Reuters
Mr Varadkar agreed the plan. Photo: Reuters

Leo Varadkar personally signed off on a plan to give former taoisigh special supports, including VIP airport facilities, increased use of State cars and the salary of a full-time secretary, just four months after he took office.

Mr Varadkar was told the decision could cost €300,000 a year if all taoisigh took their entitlements.

The move took place in October 2017. Mr Varadkar had only taken up office in June.

The document - obtained under Freedom Of Information - said the system of supports for former taoisigh had started in 2001 but stopped in 2012.

"It would seem reasonable that a former taoiseach should have access to supports (administrative and otherwise) to support him/her carrying out aspects of work associated with his/her former role which remain after their period in office has ceased," it said.

Reintroducing the scheme would cost "in the region of €300,000" if all ex-taoisigh availed of it, but the memo said funding for it "can be met within existing resources".

Generous

Other countries' regimes for former leaders were more generous, the memo said.

In the UK, former leaders can draw down a "public duties cost allowance" worth €130,000 a year for an office and secretarial support.

In Australia, office space, phones, printing services, a car and limousine are available, while in New Zealand, ex-PMs are entitled to "unlimited free domestic flights, a chauffeur-driven limousine or a self-drive car with a new car every 60,000km".

The scheme in Ireland would offer support in six areas, with VIP airport facilities to be provided "prior to departure and on landing".

The former leaders were already entitled to transport for State functions but this would be extended to up to five other events in a calendar year.

In a statement, a department official said that supports were available "on request only" and at the individual's discretion.

"It is entirely a matter for each individual former taoiseach as to whether they avail of any of the supports available to them now or at any stage in the future," they added.

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