President Higgins still getting €19,000 NUI Galway pension while in office

Galway Daily news President Higgins attending James Joyce anniversary event in Rahoon

President Michael D Higgins has continued to draw his pension from NUI Galway of €19,000 while he has been in office.

It was widely reported during the 2011 election that Michael D would surrender all pensions he was entitled to, including that of an NUI Galway professor, while he was in office.

The president’s spokesperson has confirmed for the first time that he has continued to take his pension from the university, the Sunday Times reports.

President Higgins was a lecturer in sociology and politics at NUI Galway, either full-time or part-time, for many years until he resigned from the role in 2001.

Since becoming President in 2011, he has not drawn any pension from his time as a TD or government minister.

Higgins is paid a presidential salary of just under a quarter of a million euro after continuing with the voluntary pay cut that President MacAleese brought in.

The presidential salary has been a topic of contention in this election with multiple other candidates for the office like Sean Gallagher, Joan Freeman, and Peter Casey asked by Galway city council is they thought the president was overpaid.

Casey and Freeman have both criticised the €317,000 allowance made to the President for entertainment, while independent candidate Gavin Duffy has called for a retroactive audit.

Bertie Ahern raised the discretionary allowance in 1998 while he was Taoiseach from £50,000 (€63,000) to £250,000.

At a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee Galway West TD Catherine Connolly questioned the means by which the finances of Áras an Uachtarain are handled.

The Independent TD asked why, up until this year, there had never been an internal auditor of the President’s Establishment in the history of the state.

A spokesperson for President Higgins’ re-election campaign has said they expect to spend in the region of €394,000.

It was added that €100,000 of this will come from the President’s savings and that he does not intend to take any corporate donations.

Senator Joan Freeman, who received endorsements from Galway city and county councils, said that two businessmen have loaned her €130,000 to fund her campaign.

The vast majority of that, €120,000, is from former president of Herbalife Des Walsh.

Freeman said that Walsh contacted her after seeing her on the Late Late Show in January and later €43,000 towards Solace House, the new branch of Pieta House she has opened in New York.

Whoever is President after October will take home a slightly reduced salary of €247,680, though some candidates have said they will not accept the full amount.

Peter Casey has said that he will give his salary to a local council to donate to a non-profit.

While Sinn Féin’s candidate Liadh Ní Riada has said that she will only take a ministerial salary of €163,000.