The coalition government in Dublin has defended their decision to give further bonuses, deferred payments and inflated salaries to bank executives, property developers and political insiders.
One-off cash payments amounting to well over two million euro are to be given to executives at the nationalised Anglo Irish Bank; while bailed-out developers are being paid salaries of up to 200,000 euro a year.
The Fine Gael/Labour government has shrugged off criticism of its deepening relationship with bankers and developers, which has continued from that of the previous Fianna Fail government.
While the direct six-and seven-figure payments to a coterie of well-connected developers and alleged white-collar criminals at Anglo Irish Bank have received some media attention, the general issue of corruption and fraud at government level has dropped off the front pages of the national newspapers in recent months.
Minister Noonan claimed that the salaries being paid to developers through the National Assets Management Agency were unavoidable.
“Receivers are a fine body of people, but they charge 180 euro an hour, and 180 euro an hour when you make it up over the year is going to come in at a lot higher than the developer who knows the assets, running the system under strict controls,” he said.
Government officials insist they do not have the power to lower the rates paid to receivers, nor to lower the ‘bonuses’ for bankers -- not even for those facing a fraud investigation.
Six of the bank’s executives received deferred bonus payments totaling 925,000 euro last year.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dublin parliament on Thursday that the bonuses and payments to executives at Anglo Irish Bank were “contractually committed to”.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said that of 50 senior people employed at the bank at the time it was “at the height of its dangerous casino capitalism”, 22 were still in employment there, and 19 of them were on salaries of more than 175,000 euro a year.
Ms McDonald told the Tanaiste: “You and your colleagues are quick to attack people on welfare payments, accusing those out of work of making a lifestyle choice.”
She said the Governnment “is offering some lifestyle opportunity to officials and senior employees in a toxic bank that has brought us to the brink of ruin”.
Mr Gilmore denied the coalition government has a strategy of targeting people on social welfare or on low pay. He did not defend “for one moment” the bonuses paid to Anglo Irish personnel, he added, declaring “this Government will not stand over the feather bedding of anybody in any part of the banking system”.
However, it was indicated that the bonuses would go ahead -- and that the head of the nationalised Allied Irish Bank could receive far in excess of the half a million euro salary cap previously proposed.
It also emerged that the government’s own salary cap was being ignored, with the salaries being paid to two special advisers in the department of the Taoiseach far in excess of the suggested limit.
Two of the five advisers employed in Enda Kenny’s department earn a salary of 168,000 euro ($225,000), nearly five times the average industrial wage in the 26 Counties.
Speaking during Leaders Questions Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD pointed out that on coming into office, the government talked about the need for leadership to be shown by those who hold high office in the public sector.
“The government is living in a bubble - cut-off from the social consequences of the decisions it takes,” he said.
“Last week the Taoiseach refused to give a commitment not to break the pay cap for the next CEO of the Allied Irish Bank. We discovered at the weekend why.
“The half a million salary will be inflated to almost one million by all sorts of devious devices - the sort of financial sleight of hand that got us into the current economic mess.
“But Mr Kenny was prepared to definitively rule out any reversal of the cuts to pensioners’ fuel allowance and is prepared to ignore the hurt caused by family stealth taxes, the universal social charge and the household charges.
“Does the government really believe paying out these exorbitant salaries to government appointees and imposing harsh financial cuts on families and communities, is providing the kind of leadership the state needs at a time of severe economic distress? When people are struggling to hold onto their homes and put food on the table for their children?
“The fact is that the pay scale set by the Department of Finance has been broken and not just by the Taoiseach’s department. There are at least 5 other special advisers in various government departments earning more than the Department of Finance scale allows for. This is unacceptable.”