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Enda axes former Taoisigh expenses - but too late to reclaim Bertie's €367,000 windfall

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The beginning of Bertie's acting career
coincided nicely with the expenses regime 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has followed through on his commitment to streamlining public costs and cutting back on prime ministerial excess, but not in time to prevent former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern from claiming €367,000 in 'expenses' since leaving power in 2008.

The move will see a cutback in a wide range of formerly claimable 'expenses', which could be sought back by former heads of state: computer equipment, telephone costs and airport VIP facilities, are just some of the 'administrative' expenses cited by the Irish Times as having gotten the axe.

News-aggregation service TheJournal.ie reports that the cuts also extend as far as personal cell-phones and (the main cutback) secretarial assistants.
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The end of the former Taoisigh's administrative expenses entitlement has also thrown up some interesting figures on who claimed the most under the bizarre regime: the main culprit, unsurprisingly, is Bertie Ahern -- last seen, as Irish Central reports, hiding in a cupboard for a tabloid newspaper advert -- who managed to bill the long-suffering taxpayer a smashing total of €367,000 for 'secretarial' expenses incurred since he made an ignoble departure from public office-holding in 2008.

Bertie's spending, according to the Times was: €75,000 in 2008, €114,000 in 2009, €107,000 in 2010 and €71,000 last year, although an itemized breakdown unfortunately doesn't appear to be forthcoming.

Other claimants under the scheme - not availed of by every former head of state - include Brian 'Biffo' Cowen, who has billed us for a comparatively meager €32,000 since (also) leaving office ingloriously in 2010; the late Dr Garret FitzGerald, who claimed €30,000; Albert Reynolds, who led the country as far back as 1994, who claimed €25,000, and John Bruton, the most modest expenses-seeker, last in office in 1997, at €16,000.

The total claimed, and paid out by the Department of the Taoiseach, came to a whopping €1.16m. The scheme was introduced at the end of the brown-envelope-pushing Ahern regime, which ended in 2008, at which time 'Bertie' re-directed his efforts to sports columns and cupboard-hiding, although he was apparently still happy to claim the generous entitlements.

Despite knowing the broad range of the figures, and the biggest claimants, we have little idea what, exactly and in what amounts, the taxpayer's money was spent on.

Brian Cowen apparently billed us for a computer system worth €2,000 (whether this was merely a very lavish desktop, or had some State function, is not stated, but the former seems a safer bet), while some of the money (€4,000) went on the now cancelled provision of VIP facilities at all three of the Republic's international airports.

However it remains clear that at a time of unprecedented austerity measures for the Irish populace, the vast bulk of the money, paid entirely and unfairly out of the public purse, remains unaccounted for, and pending further Freedom of Information probing, may well stay that way.

The move follows the popular elimination of the (now revoked) right to a State car upon retirement, which was abolished last year.

Former cuts, it can be expected, may follow.
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