There are huge gaps and unknowns relating to earned income and levels of wealth in the Irish economy, Independent TD Tommy Broughan has told the Dáil.
“Since 1991, and up to very recently, the Irish public and policymakers have had to rely mainly on international studies and the so-called rich lists to gain any insight into the levels of higher incomes and stocks of wealth,’’ Mr Broughan said.
Mr Broughan was speaking on moving his Private Member's High Pay and Wealth Commission Bill, providing for the establishment of a permanent commission within the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to research levels of pay and wealth in the State.
Mr Broughan said that such a bodywould promote a fair income distribution across society and provide transparency on the issue.
Mr Broughan said those TDs working closely with their constituents, and listening to concerned Irish citizens, knew inequality in Ireland was real.
The TD said that, in many areas, inequality was deepening and it was devastating for the majority of citizens in receipt of social welfare payments, as well as for those on low-income employment and on zero-hour contracts.
Mr Broughan said his bill proposed a nine-person commission, with a core role of regularly informing the public about income and wealth levels across Irish society.
The commission’s research would include best practice models of income distribution and would attempt to determine appropriate structures in which the setting of executive high pay and other remuneration would be reformed.
Mr Broughan said it would also have a role in developing more equitable fiscal and national economic policies.
Minister of State for Business and Employment Gerald Nash said he acknowledged Mr Broughan's consistent commitment on the issue.
However, Mr Nash rejected the bill, arguing the CSO’s established professional independence and neutrality should not be used in a way that might confuse its functions.
Mr Nash said that there was nothing independent or neutral about such concepts as “fair levels of remuneration’’, “appropriate structures for the reform of pay’’, or “best practice models of income distribution’’.
Mr Nash said that assessing fair pay was an art and not a science.
“It is the type of thing we should be doing in this House.
“Statisticians are no more competent to debate these issues than are staff nurses, teachers or stenographers.’’
Fianna Fáil's Brendan Smith said his party did not support the bill. "As a guiding principle, there should be a clear link between remuneration and performance.''