Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fianna Fail leave poisoned chalice for new regime

You have to take your hat off to Fianna Fail because Tuesday’s budget proved for certain that they are ‘the most cunning and the most devious of all’.

Without breaking a sweat, the party top brass rallied together to pen a budget that had so many hallmarks of sliveen-ism that should earn in a place in history as the ultimate ‘screw you’ budget.

The people of Ireland are today counting the cost of what the budget means for them.

But on a political level, the budget was a sneaky and deadly handball right into the hands of the next government.

Like the last sting of a dying wasp, the dying Fianna Fail-led Government has tossed some of the most savage cuts right into the hands of the next Government.

Take the controversial Site Value (property) Tax, for example. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced in his four-year plan that a flat payment of €100 would be introduced in 2012.

Why didn’t he introduce that charge in Tuesday’s budget? Because he wanted the next Government - a possible Fine Gael and Labour coalition - to have to implement that savage cost and bear the wrath of a nation.

And what about the domestic water charges? In the four year plan, Lenihan said they would be in place by 2014.

Why not a nominal charge of €100 now? Because he wanted that dirty hike to be announced by Fine Gael and Labour.

The State pension will not remain untouched for long. Lenihan made the cunning decision not to change it this year knowing that next year, cuts will have to be made in it and the government that will do that will not be his.

And don’t be fooled by attempts by the political elite to show that they are prepared to lead by example by taking pay cuts.

What Lenihan has effectively done is cut the salary of the next government as he knows there are only weeks left in this current one.

It was a cleverly tactical move by Lenihan - cut the pay of their political opponents before they get into office. There is little they can do about it then!

In the vast confines of Government Buildings, Brian Lenihan and Brian Cowen dusted off an antique chalice and filled it with poison.

And in one budget, it has passed this poison chalice - and many of the most difficult cuts and hikes to come - to his political opponents.

When Fine Gael and Labour move to the Government side of the house next year - as they are expected to do - they won’t have many reasons to celebrate.

Their first budget will be bloody and unpopular - and they have Brian Lenihan to thank for that.

Axing Biffo's Bunch will cost over €6m

Voting Fianna Fail out of Government will cost the taxpayer in excess of €6m in golden handshakes and pension payments in just two years.

And if all members of the current cabinet and ministers of state manage to get re-elected into opposition, it will cost us another €2.3m in severance payments.

The platinum pension and termination schemes enjoyed by our TDs mean that they will not be stuck for a euro or two to pay for their electricity or gas bill when the post-election chill sets in.

While the nation freezes - both literally and financially - the Fianna Fail TDs heading into battle can look forward to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if their battle fails.

If the recent opinion polls are anything to go by, Fianna Fail could lose as many as 30 seats.

For every TD who loses their seat in the election - they are entitled to four financial windfalls.

Each TD will get a termination lump sum and over a period of 12 months, they will receive termination payments. This is a form of severance payment for them being voted out on their ears.

The termination lump sum, which is not subject to tax, is the equivalent of about two months salary.

The termination payments depend on how long the TD has served in the Dail.

It can range from €5,791 for a TD with just three years experience to over €61,000 for a TD who has 20 years or more service.

Once the termination payments have been paid, then the pension kicks in.

Pensions are calculated on the length of time served. Basically, the TD gets one fortieth of their salary per year of service. Serve is capped at 20 years.

So a TD with 10 years service would be entitled to an annual pension for the rest of their lives of €24, 606 while a TD with 20 years service gets the top pension - almost €50,000 a year.

If a TD has served on a Committee or held any other type of office during their time in politics, they can accrue extra pension payments based on the positions held.

On top of the pension, they are entitled to a tax-free pension lump sum, which is calculated at three times the annual pension. This gives long-timers a windfall of up to €150,000.

While no one knows which members of Fianna Fail will lose their seats at the next election - one thing is for sure, there will be a large group of them.

If, for example, 30 TDs go - 10 of which have more than 20 years service, 10 with 15 years service, five with ten years service and five with three years service - the final bill to the taxpayer after two years will be €6.2m.

And this does not take into account the annual pensions that will be paid to the losing TDs for the rest of their lives.

A severance system also exists for politicians who are re-elected but who go from ministers to backbenchers.

Under 1992 legislation, ministers who lose their jobs are entitled to severance pay.

The severance payment is paid over a two year period.

For a Minister, severance would be €98,844 over a two year period and for a Minister of State it would be €46,578 over two years.

The Tanaiste would get €115,782 and the Taoiseach would get €135,792 over two years on severance.

So assuming that all of the cabinet and junior ministers - including the Ceann Comhairle and the Leas Ceann Comhairle - are re-elected into opposition, the total amount the taxpayer would be paying them in severance over two years would amount to more than €2.3m.

This €2.3m would be paid to them ON TOP of their Dail salaries.

Fianna Fail grounds next Government

Somewhere in a dark bunker in the Department of Finance, a few political mandarins are rubbing their hands with glee - as they have just got one over on Fine Gael!!

In three words - The Government Jet!!

Yes, the hallmark of excess in Government, the not-so-humble Government Jet has had its fair share of knockers.

And now that Fianna Fail is intent on doing everything it can possibly to to make life for Fine Gael/Labour in power as difficult as possible, it has decided not to replace the Jet when it goes to the aircraft hangar in the sky.

Just two years ago, the Government had three Air Corps aircraft at their disposal. One has been decommissioned and now the Gulfstream Jet will not be replaced.

To be fair to our Air Corps, they have gotten fierce value out of the Gulfstream Jet. It has the most air miles on it than any other similar Gulfstream Jet in the world.

But all good things come to an end and the end of the runway is coming closer for the Jet.

That leaves the Government with the use of just one aircraft, a much smaller one, which from hereonin will be used to fly Ministers to Europe for meetings.

This means that the new Government won’t have a decent jet - capable of holding more than 10 people and one that can fly around the world - at their disposal.

And if they want one, they will have to make the highly unpopular decision to buy one.

And these babies don’t come cheap!!

So what happens now? Well commercial travel is the only way forward and for some reason, I don’t think our new breed of Ministers will be travelling cattle class!

Considering all the officials that normally accompany a Minister on an overseas trip, that is a serious wad of money that will be spent from the taxpayers purse on business class airfares.

What many people don’t seem to take into consideration is that we - the people of Ireland - own the Government Jet.

Not only was it a plush overseas taxi for our politicians but it also served as a training craft for our excellent Air Corps.

So its demise is a loss on a number of levels - a loss for the pampered politicians, a loss for the next Government and, above all, a loss for our Air Corps.

New map can lead us to Broke Park!

As Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has said in the past, the deeds to Ireland Inc have been handed over to bail out our banks.

Well to mark the fact that we have mortgaged future generations to pay for the mess the bankers made, a new map has been drawn up of Ireland.

Gone is Munster, Leinster, Connaught and Ulster. Gone are the counties that bring us such pride.

Instead, the country is divided into five distinct areas - Barclay’s in the North, Deutsche Bank in the West, Goldman Sachs in the South, the IMF in the midlands and AXA in Leinster.

That should make for an interesting All-Ireland final!!

Politicians CAN put a smile on your face!!

There haven’t been many reasons to bring a smile to the faces of the nation this week. But let’s give it a go!

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill and the barber replied: ‘I cannot accept money from you, I’m doing community service this week’.

The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a Garda comes in for a haircut and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied: ‘I cannot accept money from you, I am doing community service this week’.

The Garda was happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at the door.

Then a TD came in for a haircut and when he went to pay his bill, the barber replied again: ‘I cannot accept money from you as I am doing community service this week’.

The TD was very happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen TDs lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of the country and the politicians who run it.

Both politicians and nappies need to be changed often - and for the same reason!

Demand to kerb cyclists' easy ride

Our ‘Take A Bow’ award for this week goes to Labour Cllr Kevin Humphreys who wants on-the-spot fines for cyclists who continue to break the law.

His proposal would allow for on-the-spot fines for cyclists who cycle on the footpath, break red lights and cycle at night with no lights.

While the vast majority of cyclists are careful and law-abiding, there is a small minority who have no regard for their safety or for the safety of others.

“I received many complaints from the public about cyclists using footpaths and pedestrian areas at high speed without any regard for pedestrians,” he said.

“Cycling in the city should be encouraged and facilities improved for them but pedestrian and other road users should also be protected.”

As a result of Kevin Humphries suggestion, Dublin City Council has written to Transport Minister Noel Dempsey asking him to bring in legislation to allow for fix charged penalties for cyclists who break the law.