Wednesday 13 December 2017

We'll take his €150,000 Mercedes off Bertie - FG

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is facing the loss of his free €150k S Class Mercedes with his 24-hour Garda drivers.

As the cost of keeping privileged ministers on the roads hits a staggering €11m, the Opposition is proposing to scrap the cosy luxury car and detective driver that is costing us a fortune.

Fine Gael is promising to dramatically overhaul the system for Ministerial cars, after it was revealed that State cars cost €10.9m in the past two years.

There are currently 27 cars on the road that are directly paid for by taxpayers, including vehicles for ministers, the Director of Public Prosecutions and ex-Taoisigh and Presidents.

But Fine Gael announced plans for a car pool system yesterday, with its transport spokesman Simon Coveney saying the wheels have to come off the "sacred cows".

Under the Fine Gael plan, garda drivers will only be provided to the Taoiseach, Minister for Justice and in other circumstances where a requirement is determined.

Otherwise, ministers will be encouraged to take the bus or use their own car as a way of saving cash.

There will be a limited supply of State cars with security-cleared drivers on standby which ministers can seek to use for certain duties.


Mr Ahern would be among those vying for the cars as his automatic right to a car would be relinquished.

Taxpayers fork out around €84,000 for Mr Ahern's VIP car alone and this came under close scrutiny recently after he jumped into a cupboard for a TV advertisement. His current car has clocked up 186,450km.

Ex-presidents will retain their entitlement to a car and full-time driver, according to Fine Gael.

"I find it incredible that this amount of money is being spent by government at a time when our country is on the floor," said Mr Coveney.

The TD noted that there are 54 gardai assigned to drive ministers at a cost of €4.2m last year alone.

A further €183,000 was spent on fuel last year while maintenance costs totalled €147,339.

The cars -- which are a combination of Mercedes, Audis, a Citroen C3 and Toyota Prius -- also depreciated in value by €872,000 in just two years.

"This sense of entitlement has to end. It is now time to reform the current arrangement which is far too expensive and goes way beyond what is actually required," said Mr Coveney.

The Opposition party says it will encourage ministers to take public transport or make use of their personal car, with the option of mileage expenses.

"While the savings will not make a dramatic impact on the Exchequer, it will send out a clear message that reform in the public service is starting from the top down."

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