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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 22, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    Getting the Message at Last?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Maybe the establishment in this country is at last beginning to get the message. The decision by senior banker Richie Boucher (51) to forego his Eur 1.5m pension top-up sends out a badly-needed signal that the sacrifices aren’t confined to the lower orders.

    Whatever slim chance the Croke Park pay deal now has of getting the approval of the union membership, it would have had none at all as long as this very provocative arrangement was still in existence.

    The concept of equality is still foreign to the Irish political and economic system in many respects. Nobody – repeat nobody – should be getting the kind of money these senior figures in the financial sector are being paid, particularly in the light of developments over the last 18 months.

    There is an old slogan, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” It’s not a bad basis on which to construct a harmonious and productive society.

    • Betterworld Now says:

      Deaglán, I never took you for a Marxist before!

      But you are missing the point – Boucher’s decision was voluntary, paying for NAMA is compulsory.

      When those whom the taxpayers are feather-bedding have no choice in the matter of their bonus or pension payments, then – and only then – will we know that fairness is on the agenda in Ireland.

      Anything else is mere charity or guilt or both.

      In a democracy, the people are sovereign. Politicians of all colours take note.

    • Liam says:

      The best thing Ireland Inc. could have done was to have a bank holiday, declare the banks insolvent and reopen them after cutting loose the bond holders and existing staff and directors’ contracts. Anything short of that has been a form of looting by the elite.

      Whats happening in Greece now will probably be heading our way in few years when the papered-over problems reassert themselves.
      If you are not caught up in it, it’s a great time in history to watch the unravelling of the statist hubris.

    • robespierre says:

      Agreed Deaglán, but the great wall of China was not built with golden bricks or the sweat of the ruling class. It is but a concession by a powerful figure at this point in time that I am sure will be made up in due course.

    • The problem with “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” is that too many people are then inclined to kick back and slack off and contribute less while taking more by talking up their need. Who assesses your ability and how can we be sure what your need is without a hugely intrusive state poking about our lives?

    • Dave McG says:

      I honestly don’t think he would have foregone the top-up except for the immense public scrutiny.
      As for this being a sign that “sacrifices aren’t confined to the lower order”, I really don’t see a comparison… “sacrificing” 1.5 million when you already have a couple of million in the bank is a lot different than someone on lower means “sacrificing” (or getting cut) their pay by a couple of thousand when they don’t have money in the bank, whose only concern is “how will I pay the mortgage? or buy my children’s school books?” and not “how will this get spun in the papers? i hope they use a good picture of me when this gets reported.”

      You’re dead right though, no one should be getting that kind of money.

    • enda says:

      Its absolutely infuriating that Messers Lenihan and Cowen are still claiming that there is nothing we can do about the obscene amounts still being paid to the bankers. Contracts cannot be rewritten but we can implement punitive taxes that would accomplish the same goal. Tax all bonus payments over 10 grand at a rate of 100%, then implement strict rules to prevent them simply moving the money out of the country. This is supposedly impossible according to Lenihan, but they somehow managed to do it in the UK. Likewise we’re still waiting on an independent report on the banking crisis while Iceland’s is done already. Absolutely infuriating.

    • kynos says:

      I’d love to know what these bankers are holding over FF to make them so weak and useless and well just Satraps really. I bet it would not only rock the State to Her foundations but definitively establish that these days She’s built on sand. FF having demolished all the underpinnings. Or maybe even rock rots after enough time. Perhaps the RCC might be proof of that Gawd ‘elp us.

    • kynos says:

      We’re in it now alright. What a bunch of absolute traitors Fianna Fail are. Despicable doesn’t even begin to describe that foul foul organisation.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Don’t forget there are civil servants all across the public sector who are ‘entitled’ to similarly astounding pensions – have we forgetten Mr Molloy at FAS and do we think he was an exception? Then there are the politicans who are taking pensions on top of salaries etc and the ones who have ‘stopped’ taking their pensions, forgot to mention that ‘stopping’ taking the pension doesn’t stop your ‘entitlement’ to it so by ‘stopping’ it all you are doing is postponing it so when they do start to take it again they get paid all the backdated payments they ‘gave up’ – ditto for when Enda Kenny said he took a pay cut he forgot to mention his pension is still calculated using the full salary he had before the cut.

      And on and on it goes – nothing changes because the Irish people are incapable of holding each other to account.

      The actual rules that allow these pensions to be paid have not changed. Cowen doesn’t want to do anything to change the pensions of those above a certain level because to do so requires him knowing it is right and his DNA means he is incapable of knowing that but more importantly doing so means taking on the boys who bankroll his party and the golden circle crony circle and would require Cowen to get the politicans’ own houses in order first.

      If we know anything about Cowen and by extension politicians in Ireland, we know that they will never ever take on a vested interest especially if there’s a fear that kicking that particular dog will result in a bit. Why take that risk when there are a whole range of people lower down the food chain who can be kicked and who never bite back.

    • Frank says:

      @ All more especially Daniel O Sullivan

      Interested in Alternative economics, see Micheal Albert’s discussion on Parecon, participatory economics. It’s really interesting and I think debate about the nature of the type society we are striving to to achieve in our country needs to be seriously addressed, perhaps through a nationwide ideological survey.
      Here’s the link for anyone interested
      Food for thought.

    • Liam says:

      Good to see the EU calling a halt and making Ireland add the Anglo money to the national debt. It will give something else for our gombeen ministers to worry about.

    • Kynos says:

      There’s nothing wrong with capitalism that a good dose of severe honesty and justice won’t fix.

    • Katie Mac says:

      @ Desmond Fitzgerald.

      Morning Desmond, I have to take issue with your first sentence because I agree with pretty much everything you say but am distracted by the inaccuracy.

      Rody Molloy’s severance package was certainly extremely regrettable but he was not a civil servant. He was a public servant and his pension was negotiated on an individual basis.

      I have no idea whether this was, or continues to be, normal for public servants, or whether it was held up as extremely regrettable because it was exceptional, but he cannot be presented as a possible norm for civil servants, whose payscales and pension entitlements are set and not negotiated for each individual.

      Certainly bonuses appear to have been paid to those very senior civil servants who got their paycut reversed to cover the loss of those bonuses (as I understand it), but are they are normal at low and middle ranking grades?

      Incidently, that paycut reversal was appalling and the behaviour of those civil servants certainly backs up your argument that in this country nobody holds anybody to account, as they merrily partook in all the grubby grabbing.

      Any chance of an Eliot Ness rolling into town?

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      So much for Brian – turns out he did approve the BOI pension payment – how many other payments has he approved? Then the mealy mouth answer he gave to Shortall’s question where he tried to avoid admitting it.

      He might be a barrister but it shows he doesn’t understand anything about finance and even worse, he doesn’t understand why approving these payments is morally wrong in the current climate.

      Why would he though given his pampered background – insulated from ever having to deal with the reality most other people face.

      I take great offence when people say Brian Lenihan Snr was so intelligent and that Brian Lenihan Jnr is too.

      Maybe they were once, but the fact they were both members of a Fianna Fail crony government and supported crony leaders to the hilt at the expense of an entire generation – who are left to pay the bill – cancels out any claim on intelligence.

      A decent man wouldn’t have voted for benchmarking, SSIA or decentralisation during the Ahern years. A decent man wouldn’t have defended Ahern the way Lenihan did but they have form in supporting leaders of Fianna Fáil.

      A decent man wouldn’t serve in a Cowen government.

      I think the Lenihans have misunderstood the role and functions of the gallowglass.

      In fact, decent people don’t pursue a political career in Fianna Fáil period. If there are decent people in that party then why aren’t they calling for Cowen to go and for an election to clear the air and give a new government a mandate and why do they always put party first.

      If the FF ‘rebels’ were true they’d resign from the party and vote against it until the government falls. But of course they won’t as their ‘rebellion’ is a charade.

      Having the courage to call a spade a spade is the first step in making these elites, be they in Ireland or Greece, start to realise the old ways are coming to an end and they are going to be held to account.

      So Deaglán, I would say nothing has changed yet. Some know change is on the way and of course they’ll fight tooth and nail to prevent it but change usually has a momentum of its own once it gets going.

      Who’d have thought the Catholic Church would lose its power in Ireland of all places – is it still so unreasonable that Fianna Fáil will put out of office in the same way the Tories were in the UK – it doesn’t mean Fine Gael will be the replacement party of power but getting rid of Fianna Fáil and then breaking that system of patronage and cronyism it created so carefully over 80 years will go a long way to setting Ireland on the right course and if by 2016 – FF & FG have been broken up and replaced by new parties based on Ireland of 2016 rather than 1916 then can’t but be a good thing.

    • tony says:

      The fact that we are having an investigation into the banks behind closed doors and that Iceland has already published theirs says it all.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      @ Katie Mac, I see what you’re saying – I suppose it reflects the issue where it’s not clear where to draw the line in Ireland between a civil servant, a public sector employee and a quango.

      FAS gets its funding from the taxpayer – whereas a public sector body is meant to be self funding from its activities and a quango is meant to be a self governing organisation under the remit of a government department but running its own affairs so that the minister can pass the buck if anything goes wrong – although it doesn’t seem to apply in stopping a minister claiming credit if anything goes right?

      So does that make FAS employees part of the civil service or public sector? Also, why are senior civil/public sector employees allowed to write their own terms of employment, that include these obscene pension and bonus details, while those on lower scales have to accept the terms dictated to them.

      There are so many overlapping areas of responsibility and conflicting rules on expenses and salaries and pensions and bonuses I don’t envy the task of anyone trying to actually reform them after the next election.

      Then when you see the politicans who are themselves taking pensions but then have the brass neck to patronise and lecture others about taking pay cuts etc … well you have to despair.

      The only way to change things is for outsiders to come in and go through each department line and line and ruthlessly cut, get it passed and then leave.

      I think in Ireland the balance of those who are ambivalent toc orruption far outweighs those who are outraged by it so the task of anyone who genuinely wants reform is doomed from the start unless that % starts to move in their favour.

    • Teresa says:

      The fact that Iceland had a referendum and we did not, says a lot about us.
      The Ministerial Pension subject brings up other perks the ministers enjoy. Batt O’Keefe pledges to track down Social Welfare fraudsters evan though he uses a state car and driver to wait outside the pub for him while he enjoys a few pints. Why do we allow this? Why do we not object strongly to this? I agree that we need a big debate on what kind of country we want. Fintan O’Toole also has a good point that the left in this country is too weak. We need a stronger left even if we do not want total Socialism.

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