Opposition blown away by salary of Bank of Ireland’s Richie Rich

Taoiseach defends Noonan’s honour against Mattie McGrath onslaught


“WOW!” exclaimed Mary Lou, blown away by the eye-watering earnings of the bank’s very own Richie Rich. “On a salary of €843,000. Wow!”

As the Opposition berated the Government – a major shareholder in Bank of Ireland – for allowing the salary of its boss to go through on the nod at its agm yesterday, the Taoiseach felt obliged to defend his Minister for Finance for failing to heed his own shareholders – the electorate – by not registering their disapproval at the enormity of the chief executive’s wage packet.

Enda wasn’t just addressing the deputies across the floor. On Tuesday, five Labour TDs voiced their unhappiness.

While the Government does not hold a majority stake in the BoI, it poured a substantial chunk of taxpayers’ money into saving the institution. The least Michael Noonan could have done was put it on the record that the remuneration package of Richie Boucher and other bigwigs at the bank is too big.

Instead, the Government held its nose and looked the other way when the time came to rubber-stamp the deal.

This puzzled members on all sides of the House. As the big institutional investors were going to swing the outcome with their huge block vote, a dissenting note from Kildare Street wouldn’t alter the happy outcome for Mr Boucher and his corporate chums.

But it would have sent the right sort of message to the public and soothed the very real misgivings of many of Enda’s backbenchers. They’ll be the ones explaining when they return this weekend to their constituencies.

Smells like Shane’s spirit
If Mary Lou McDonald was not happy, Mattie McGrath was livid. It was if he had been possessed by the angry spirit of his Technical Group colleague, Shane Ross, who could not be present for Leaders’ Questions as he was up the road at the agm in the Burlington complaining loudly about Boucher’s brass.

Michael Noonan “bottled it”, declared McGrath. Was the Taoiseach willing to stand over his “cowardice”?

That stung. The Fine Gael backbenchers sat up in their seats and glowered at him. They love Noonan and they wouldn’t have the likes of Mattie McGrath coming into the Dáil and disrespecting him.

Enda narrowed his eyes and put on his tough-guy voice.

“You have the temerity to come in here and to accuse Minister Noonan of cowardice. I want to tell you one thing, Deputy McGrath. You can accuse the Minister of many things but you can never accuse him of cowardice.”

The backbenchers growled their support. “Hear, Hear,” cried Ruairí Quinn, short only of offering to hold Enda’s coat if he wanted to put proper manners on Mattie. Ruairí, of course, is a former Labour Minister for Finance. He probably feels Micheál’s pain.

But McGrath was channelling Lord Ross and wasn’t going to give up. Richie Boucher’s wages are nothing short of obscene, he spluttered, pleading with the Taoiseach to “stop this outrageous charade going on in the Burlington Hotel and all over the country”.

The Ceann Comhairle intervened, reminding the deputy for Tipperary South it was against the rules to name people, under House privilege, who could not defend themselves. “This is not a chamber where you take people’s reputation asunder,” declared Sean Barrett. (Unless it’s TD-on-TD action, when the blood can flow.)

Then Enda proceeded to take Mattie asunder.

“When you speak of courage, Deputy McGrath, you did not have the courage to put your name behind the Fianna Fáil banner and stand before the people. You ran, ran because you were afraid to face the people with that brand on your forehead. You were afraid to knock on doors in Tipperary and say ‘I represent the Fianna Fáil party’.

“You showed absolute cowardice and lack of courage and far be it from you to come in here and preach about others.”

“Hooray!” cheered his backbenchers, doubly relieved because the topic of abortion didn’t feature yesterday.

Enda went on to repeat what he had told Mary Lou McDonald: that, due to steps taken by Minister Noonan “the bank leadership” would shortly be making “a substantial and significant contribution” in terms of salary. “And it’s right that it should be, because these are extraordinary salaries.”

We’re intrigued.

Perhaps Richie Boucher and his senior executives are going to take a leaf from Mary Lou’s book and only draw the average industrial wage, paying the huge balance back to the bank’s depleted coffers. Now, there’s a thought.

Meanwhile, some Government people were saying Minister Noonan was reluctant to publicly embarrass Bank of Ireland’s top management as this would have a detrimental effect on investor confidence and the share price might drop.

Because it’s all about the markets. You can mess with the public servants, and try to tweak the Twoke Park agreement all you like, but you don’t mess with the markets.

So, according to Mary Lou, it’s full steam ahead with hammering ordinary workers’ pay but it’s “oh so gentle, so gentle and so generous with Richie Boucher”. And his salary of €843,000. Wow.

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