Thursday 27 October 2016

The redemption of Richie

Published 10/05/2015 | 02:30

Richie Boucher
Richie Boucher

You'd have to say that Bank Of Ireland boss Richie Boucher is worth every penny of his huge salary. The one thing you need to have, to be in charge of a bank these days, is balls of steel, and Boucher certainly demonstrated those at the Banking Inquiry last week.

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We have become used to the empty theatre that is the Banking Inquiry by now. The routine is roughly this: The kinds of calm, soothing, alpha, manly types who get to be heads of banks trot in. They beat their chests and say what happened was terrible and that yes, they lent too much money, but they were only doing what everyone was doing.

They hint that they feel terrible about everything. And then off they trot, penance done, free to go back to their lavish retirements, or the next chapter they have carved out for themselves. The kind of lavish retirements and next chapters that a whole generation of us in this country will never enjoy, partially thanks to those smooth bankers. And the inquiry's only finding against them will be, 'tut tut, isn't it terrible'.

But Boucher was an even more impressive beast. Most of the bankers pulled up before the Inquiry have had the manners to make themselves scarce since. Boucher is still there, and what's more promoted from the dug-out on to the pitch.

How Boucher and his buddies must have laughed when they saw Miliband, Clegg and even Farage all line up to resign the other day for merely losing an election. Here in Ireland you can help destroy the country and not only is it a not a resigning matter, but in Boucher's case it can get you a promotion.

Not that Boucher is in it for the money or the job, you understand. He is basically making reparations. His stewardship of the Bank Of Ireland is a form of community service, a kind of penance, his effort to repay his debt to society, to make right the mistakes he was party to. He actually came in front of the inquiry and said that he hopes he has shown how he is determined to right his wrong during his past six-and-a-half years as chief executive, and that the action behind his words was his recognition that mistakes were made and that he wanted to better them. He said he has huge drive to restructure the bank and make it a sustainable, viable institution.

How noble. How admirable. Richie wants to redeem himself and make things right. Well, it would be admirable if Richie wasn't being paid nearly a million quid a year to do his penance. On that trifling matter, Richie explains that it is nothing to do with him and is decided by other people. Not bad money for community service is it? Not bad money for repaying your debt to society. We can all only hope that if we are ever collectively responsible for a giant cock-up that brings the country to its knees, it happens to us in Ireland and not the UK.

Those nutters in the UK would probably expect you to resign. Here in Ireland, you get €843k a year to try and redeem yourself.

Sunday Independent

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