Wednesday 17 January 2018

Quinn's millionaire brother 'silent' on giving up €78,000

Lochlann Quinn: ESB chairman earned €78,750 in 2010 for his work on the board

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE multi-millionaire brother of a government minister is among a number of highly paid chairmen of state boards who won't say if they will give up their lucrative fees.

ESB chairman Lochlann Quinn, brother of Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, earned €78,750 in 2010 for his work on the board of the electricity company. But he has refused to publicly commit to a new plan to slash the cost of state boards.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin wants to cut costs and is giving everyone on a state board -- including the chairmen -- the choice of waiving their annual fees.

Last night Lochlann Quinn was making no comment. His fee is in addition to expenses for telephones, travel and subsistence.

Mr Quinn was ranked as the country's 50th wealthiest man, worth €188m, in the 'Sunday Independent' Rich List 2011.

Only one of the most high-profile chairmen contacted by the Irish Independent said she was willing to consider it. This was Anne Nolan of the Irish Aviation Authority.

She gets €18,000 a year for her work on the board. She was also paid almost €7,700 in fees in 2010 for being a board member of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

A series of others, including the chair of Bord Gais, Rose Hynes, and Dublin Airport Authority chairman Padraig O Riordain, were not willing to say if they would be willing to waive or take a cut in their fees.

Some commercial state bodies such as national grid operator Eirgrid already have the voluntary fee waiver scheme but would not say if any board members had signed up.

Scheme

Forestry body Coillte also confirmed it had brought the scheme to the attention of its chairman Brendan McKenna and its board. It refused to say if Mr McKenna would be giving up his fee, saying that Mr Howlin had indicated that it was a voluntary decision.

It remains unclear how many board members have volunteered for the ambitious scheme because the details will be kept separately by the departments responsible for each state body.

The Department of Public Expenditure said it did not have a central record for data protection reasons. It said the scheme aimed to provide a way for board members to waive fees "on a discretionary basis".

There are more than 120 state bodies and fees range from €5,985 to €14,963 for ordinary board members.

It comes as dozens of highly qualified Irish executives based overseas have said they would be "honoured" to serve on state boards for free to help the state emerge from its financial crisis.

The US-based Irish Technology Leadership Group has already recruited 100 members of the Irish diaspora from the biggest companies in the world, including Intel, Microsoft, Disney and Goldman Sachs.

Its founder, Limerick-born businessman John Hartnett, said the only people who should be paid fees on state boards were those who needed to earn a living and pay their bills.

"There are people on boards today who are multi-millionaires and who are retired and have had successful careers. Guess what? I think they should do it for free," he said.

Mr Hartnett said the recruitment of an "A-Team" from the diaspora could mark a "watershed moment" in state boards, given the connections and experience they would bring.

"We as a diaspora could actually do something tangible to make an impact on the Irish economy. We have got world-class leaders who are willing and able to do this," he said.

Speaking from California, Mr Hartnett said the executives would be willing to travel to Ireland several times a year at their own expense for meetings and take part in the remainder via video-conferencing.

He said that Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was "embracing" the idea.

"It's the Jackie Charlton strategy -- he looked outside Ireland and took the best from outside and inside Ireland," he said.

Irish Independent

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