Anger about housing should not be directed at Ires Reit chief

Pay of €680,000 to head up State’s biggest private landlord will not be celebrated

Ires chief executive Margaret Sweeney. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Ires chief executive Margaret Sweeney. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Other than Margaret Sweeney herself, there’ll be few celebrating the fact that her total remuneration came in at €680,000. For the State’s largest landlord, with rents such as they are, the transparency around executive pay is an unfortunate necessity bound to rile people up on a yearly basis when the figures are made public.

And although the outcry was predictable given that Ires is a profitable beast as a result of the Republic’s chronic property market, anger shouldn’t be directed toward Sweeney.

With a basic salary of €330,000 and benefits of €350,000, Sweeney is among the poorer-paid class of the Republic’s executive elite. A study conducted by The Irish Times last year found the average chief executive salary of the Republic’s top 20 companies – of which Ires is one – was €1.88 million.

For Sweeney, it is terribly unfortunate that her money was made at the expense of tenants given they are the group that currently command extensive public support. The fact that Ires managed to increase its rent achieved per unit by 5.4 per cent to €1,599 is an additional fact unlikely to provide the company with cheerleaders.

But the State’s housing issues are thus not because of Ires but because of a series of policy failures that meant we weren’t building houses when we should have been and were building to beat the band when buyers were in short supply (to simplify matters).

At the time Ires came to market, there were few residential landlords offering the service they offer despite it being the norm in other developed economies such as Germany and the US. The landlords backed by equity are important players needed in a diversified market, and their opponents will always take issue with the rent they charge and the profits they make.

Ires are needed in the Republic. As are the large house builders, the small country developers and the build-to-rent entrepreneurs. It’s time to realise that we need a mix of input in our housing market rather than a plethora of builders putting up three-bed semis. If that means someone gets paid well, Cantillon would suggest that we make our peace with that.

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