So there you have it. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn decided to hand back her ministerial pension for the duration of her tenure as an EU Commissioner.
Because of the public outcry.
And how do you measure a public outcry?
Well you don’t, unless you happen to own a TV station, in which case you send out some reedy-voiced cub reporter to interview gobshites on the streets of Ireland.
You’re a middle-aged man standing here outside the dole office and I’m a nervous 23-year-old girlie trying to look grown up. So tell me, do you feel outraged that MGQ is getting a 100k pension?
I do. I feel …
Look, the general public don’t think at all. We know that, because if they did, we wouldn’t have Fianna Fáil in government and MGQ wouldn’t be getting the hot job in Brussels. This public outcry is something whipped up by loudmouth populist gobshites like Joe Duffy as a substitute for genuine analysis.
It’s begrudgery dressed up as social concern, and it shows how low journalism in Ireland has sunk.
Let’s examine it rationally.
Should ministers have a special pension at all?
In my opinion, no they shouldn’t. It’s a privilege to serve in government, and as we’ve seen with the Bertietron, there’s plenty of money to be made schmoozing after leaving office.
Asking MGQ to relinquish the ministerial pension in the public interest is nonsense. By taking the Commission job, she’s no longer on the Irish public payroll, and therefore not taking a double hit of taxpayers’ money, save for the minuscule contribution we make to her salary as part of our EU obligations.
Many people retire from one job and take up another. It’s normal, and would only be objectionable if MGQ was being paid on the double by the State.
But hold on. Isn’t that what every former minister in our parliament does? Aren’t they all getting a ministerial pension and a TD’s salary?
Oops! Now we can see why the FF ministers trampled over each other to say that MGQ should relinquish the pension temporarily. If they didn’t, public attention would focus on their own cosy little arrangement, while they exhort us to starve as part of our patriotic duty.
The question to be more properly put is this: why don’t all former ministers give up their pensions while they’re receiving a TD’s salary?
You couldn’t have that, though. Could you? Next thing you know, they’ll be saying Bertie shouldn’t have a free limo and two chauffeurs to drive him around the country promoting his daughter’s chick-lit novels.
And that, my friends, is why Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was forced to hand back the ministerial pension, for now. But fear not. This is a cross-party worry for ex-ministers, and you can be certain that a future administration, no matter what its colour, will find a lucrative slot for MGQ to make up the difference.
Watch this space.