A number of elite public servants continue to be paid up to one million euro ($1.46m) in annual salary and associated benefits, despite the economic demise of the 26 Counties and the arrival of the IMF.
At least 66 top public servants are now each being paid more than the Taoiseach’s salary of [euro]228,466 ($330k), while more than 200 state employees are now getting over [euro]200,000 ($290k) per annum.
The salaries at the top of the judiciary, semi-state organisations and government departments means that 26-County officials are receiving remuneration at a level severa times higher than their Six-County, British and European counterparts.
The head of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), John Corrigan, has a total package worth in the region of one million euro. even though the value of 26-County bonds have plunged under his watch.
The chief executive of the state ‘bad bank’ NAMA, Brendan McDonagh, has a package estimated to be worth more than E840,000 ($1.25m), although his agency has seen its assets lose billions of euro in value since it was founded just over a year ago.
Despite the shock expressed by the new Dublin government about the huge salaries paid to this elite. there have been no signs yet that it possesses the political will to tackle the massive inequality in the public service.
A 3 million euro payoff package secured by one bank board member, Colm Doherty, at state-run Allied Irish Banks (AIB), has also generated considerable public controversy, but little in the way of a government response.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was “absolutely appalled to hear of this latest banker payment scandal” and that it was allowed to happen at a time “when the people of this country own AIB”. He said his government wanted to see “accountability”.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams called for the coalition government to introduce legislation to stop “this obscene payment”. He also warned the “golden circle is as alive today as it ever was under the regime led by Fianna Fail.
“Who were the public interest directors”, he asked, referring to the those appointed by the state to ensure the state-run bank was operating in the public interest.
“[Former Labour leader] Dick Spring, [Chief of state-owned Dublin Airport Authority] Declan Collier, [former NTMA chief] Michael Somers,” he said, “circle upon circle upon circle.”
Mr Kenny claimed he was powerless to do anything about it. “That [money] is gone,” he said. The payment has been made.”
The reluctance of the government to take on the Dublin elite is fueling speculation that the Fine Gael and Labour coalition, faced with a massive budget shortfall and EU and IMF demands for deeper austerity cuts, is facing collapse in the medium term.
In particular, Fine Gael is understood to believe a hands-off approach to the fiscal and banking crises is the right tactic to allow them to win an overall majority in the likely event of a snap election within the next twelve months.
Meanwhile, the government has backed a plan to sell state-owned assets, after a report found that five billion euro could be raised by the privatisation of sections of Ireland’s electricity, communication and transport operations. Forests and peat bogs have also been earmarked for sale and exploitation by private interests.
The moves were recommended in a review of 26-County state assets led by economist Colm McCarthy.
Amid fears that state assets could fall into the hands of a new set of government cronies, officials claimed the cash could be used to generate jobs, without further explanation.
Defending the Labour Party’s agreement to the privatisation of state assets, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (and one-time socialist) Brendan Howlin said: “We are a party and now a government of job-creation.
“We want to leverage any tools available to us to get people back to work. The shocking thing for us is the level of unemployment and we want to give employment and that is our core value.”
However, the plan to sell state assets to raise quick cash has recalled the very recent report of the Moriarty Tribunal into political corruption, which found that a former Fine Gael/Labour government had acted improperly in the apparently corrupt sale of a telecommunications licence in the nineties.
Speaking at the Dublin parliament, the Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “It is astonishing that the government on the one hand will not even discuss restructuring private banking debt, yet today proudly announces its intent to sell the family silver by asset stripping the state.
“Minister Howlin claims the government intends only to sell off non-strategic assets.
“On what planet is public transport, energy provision and a State’s ports considered non-strategic?”
McDonald said the privatisation of forest assets and peat extraction “makes no economic sense. Selling off profitable assets as proposed in the sale of ESB and Bord Gais assets makes no economic sense.”
“The gap between public income and expenditure cannot be bridged by asset-stripping the state,” she concluded.