Wednesday, March 04, 2015

AN underlying attitude of entitlement and arrogance was how Sinn Féin’s Pierce Doherty described taoiseach Enda Kenny’s claim that he was worth €3,500 a week.

To be fair, the salary of €185,000 a year for the taoiseach is not excessive by any standards. We have people in business who earn bonuses far in excess of that. Even their base salary would leave that of the taoiseach in the shade.

Funnily enough, no-one ever comments on that – except when it is a banker. We all know the bankers, or at least those at the top of the tree in Ireland, all earn more than the taoiseach. I know of one former Carlow businessman who probably wouldn’t get out of bed any given day for such a small sum. In fact, his salary and bonuses run into the millions of euro.

I say fair play to any of them if what they are receiving is what they deserve for the job they are doing. Naturally, all will say they are worth it, and politicians more than anyone are well aware of the spotlight being put on them, especially when they are compared with people either living on the minimum wage or in receipt of social welfare.

But that isn’t comparing like with like, and we all know that. It makes for a good soundbite, but nothing more. What we should be paying the taoiseach for is a steady pair of hands to guide the country out of the financial mire it got itself into and, more importantly, put in place structures which will lead to long-term sustainable growth, something which has been in very short supply in this country for the past few years.

Former Fine Gael taoiseach Garret FitzGerald once remarked that a mistake made by a sitting government had catastrophic consequences for the country, which lasted anything from eight to ten years. Time has proven him correct.

Mistakes were made in the past because of the sense of entitlement and arrogance about which Pearse Doherty spoke. I don’t know if the current man is guilty of that, but there are times when you have to wonder whether simple logic and common sense go out the door as soon as people are elected to Dáil Éireann.

Whether it is introducing new legislation to sort out the country’s financial mess or to deal with complex issues such as artificial reproduction, we see conflicting views being aired in public. Deep down, we know the agenda often being pursued by government is the wrong one – even members of their own party know that – but because of the whip system operated in the houses of the Oireachtas, nothing happens, or legislation is filled with loopholes or gaping omissions and passed into law.

It was great to hear of all the new jobs being created of late – which our politicians will naturally claim to be as a result of the favourable climate they created – but really, if we are serious about looking for value for the €3,500 weekly wage paid to the taoiseach, I think we should look for something more stable than an industry which caters for the social needs of 14- to 25-year-olds, or those looking to rent out a spare room in their house.

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By Michael Godfrey
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