Sunday 22 July 2018

'When markets fail, a lot of people get hurt'


Joan Burton Pic: Tom Burke
Joan Burton Pic: Tom Burke Business

Joan Burton is a TD and the Labour Party's spokesperson on finance, public expenditure and reform.

What is the most important lesson about money that your career as a politician (and as Labour's finance spokesperson) has taught you?

I think the biggest lesson I learnt was that countries should never give an unlimited bank guarantee, and that when markets fail, a lot of ordinary people get very hurt. We need to make sure that people are protected from the failure of the markets.

Are you better off than your parents?

Yes. But I do know an awful lot of younger people who are not. They are maybe in their 30s or 40s and not better off than their parents were at that time and the big difference is the capacity and ability to purchase a family home.

Apart from property, what's the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

A car.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

Decades ago, like a lot of other people I bought some Eircom shares and held onto them because I was looking at it as an investment and, of course, it went totally down the drain.

What was your best financial killing?

I've never really being involved personally in investments but I'd say the best investment someone like me has made has been paying into a tax system provides for education and other social necessities. I think unless you inherit wealth, that's a logical way of approaching it for most people.

Do you use any money-saving apps?


Android or iPhone?


Do you know how much is in your current account?

Not a lot.

Have you ever switched utility provider?

Very occasionally.

iTunes or Spotify?


What was the last thing you bought online?

Some books.

Do you have a mortgage? Is it fixed, variable or a tracker?

I finished my mortgage a couple of years ago, and it was variable. In fact I'm old enough to remember when rates went up to 18pc briefly in the 1990s before the devaluation of the Irish pound.

What's the most expensive place you have travelled to?

To Serengeti in Tanzania. I went there in the 1980s and went back there for a short break after Christmas. It's an enormous game reserve and it was an expensive trip but it's one of the wonders of the world if you're into animals and wildlife.

Would you buy Irish property now?

Personally I don't need to because I have a home, but what upsets me is the market failure in Ireland where a lot of younger people I know who are very keen to try and buy a home as their rent is higher than a mortgage would be and they just can't bridge the difference. That is a dysfunctional market.

What's your favourite Irish coin?

The last of the old Irish coins with the animals, like the bird, the stag and the salmon.

Cash or card?


Do you ever haggle?

From time to time, yeah. I like a bargain.

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