Wednesday 22 January 2020

Thomas Molloy: Duffy's circus fails to amuse ringmaster Kenny

THE letters from AIB chief David Duffy to former executives requesting a voluntary reduction in pensions represent an empty gesture that will achieve almost nothing by itself.

The bank's slick public relations operation was clearly timed to win support when there is widespread anger about the use of funds to top up AIB's pension pot.

Mr Duffy told foreign newspapers yesterday that the Irish media was guilty of "popularism" following criticism last week of the bank's pension arrangement. If it is populist to worry about how a bank that received €20bn from the taxpayer spends more than €1bn of that money, then the media here must plead guilty.

In truth, it was Mr Duffy who was guilty of pandering to the crowd with his belated and nakedly populist decision to ask former executives to give up some of their pensions.

When pressed yesterday for details of his plans, the bank said it could not comment beyond an anodyne statement.

AIB refused to answer simple questions about the size of the pension pots for past and present executives as well as questions about the legal advice given to the bank before it decided to plug the deficit in the employee pension scheme.

Luckily for the taxpayer, who must fund Mr Duffy's loss-making bank for years to come, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dail yesterday that he too harbours populist views on AIB and added that executives have a "moral responsibility" to deal with the request to cut their pension entitlements.

While Mr Duffy's nagging on pensions carries about as much weight as a telling-off from a lollipop woman, Mr Kenny has a stronger hand.

He could increase funding for corporate enforcement to levels that suggest the Government really wants previous actions investigated, or he could propose legislation to limit the size of pensions paid to officials at bankrupt banks.

After all, his Government has already changed the constitution to reduce the pensions of judges.

A failure to take firm action on the pension front would suggest that Mr Kenny was simply playing the same game as Mr Duffy and looking for a soundbite. Surely, that can't be the case?

Irish Independent

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