Tuesday 1 December 2015

Donal O’Donovan: You can bank on lavish Anglo deals fuelling public anger

Published 08/11/2012 | 17:00

IN the end, we only had to ask. It took five years for the question to be put, but less than five hours to get a positive response.

The decision by the former AIB chief executive Eugene Sheehy to give up some of his pension entitlements came as a surprise.

But it also came almost immediately after he and other former bank chiefs had been asked for the first time to hand back some of their wealth.

It shows that public anger over high pensions for those who ran the banks can have an effect.

The revelation that six current executives at state-owned IBRC are on packages in excess of €500,000 a year each will fuel that anger. These packages make a mockery of the supposed €500,000 salary cap introduced by the Government.

Anger can change minds.

Only hours before his decision, retired AIB man Mr Sheehy was staunchly defending his right to receive the pension income.

The change of heart came after his successor at AIB finally got around to putting it up to former bankers that they should give up some of the booty they walked away with when they left the stricken banks.

More importantly, it came after Enda Kenny stood up in the Dail and backed the calls for bankers to make at least a gesture of solidarity with those of us who are paying for the banking disaster every day. We do that through the new and increased taxes, including the universal social charge, brought in as a direct result of the banking collapse, as well as through the reduced services and declining standards of living.

Eugene Sheehy is handing back a large amount of money -- and he doesn't have to. But the financial hit for ordinary people has been no less real. Some of the media commentary has described the outcry over the past week as "populist" and suggested that some of the indignation had been less than righteous.

Eugene Sheehy's action shows the hollowness of that line of argument. Anger has its place in public discourse. In this case, anger has been shown to be a persuasive moral force.

That feels like an old-fashioned concept, but it is still effective for all that. The question now is whether Mr Sheehy's action has lanced the boil, leaving his former comrades to slink back in to the shadows with their wealth -- or whether it is the start of something else.

Irish Independent

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