Friday 23 March 2018

Brendan O'Connor: Taxes, not charity, should help fund the vulnerable

The salary top-up story highlights the strange intersection between the State and charity in Ireland, writes Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

THE big talking point for everyone last week was undoubtedly the earnings of hospital and charity senior management. Inevitably it focused a lot on Rhona Mahony, the Master of Holles Street. She is a woman, she is young, she is photogenic, she is outspoken, she is stylish and she is out there. She fascinates people, for better or worse. Even when it emerged that what was previously incorrectly assumed to be a top-up to Rhona's salary from the car park or the cafe was actually her legitimate earnings from delivering babies, the discussion continued as to whether she was worth it or not. The knee-jerk reaction was that no one is worth nearly 300 grand a year, with some considering that if you could be making nearly as much without taking on the responsibility of running a hospital, strategically and operationally, down to being on call most of the time, that if you spent a huge part of your adult life studying and training, and that if your tenure was for a limited time, then maybe you need to be well paid.

Mahony's specific situation, which was different, aside, what everyone did agree on was that hospital and charity bosses being paid top-ups out of private funds and out of shops and car parks was not right. The issue has upset many fundraisers and charities and even the poor celebs who raise money for charity. You can understand why the celebs and the fundraisers are upset – they are now wondering where the money they helped raise in good faith went. The reason charities are upset is because they feel this story will impact on their fundraising during the crucial Christmas period, which is traditionally a bonanza for Irish charities. Irish charities are more reliant than ever on the Christmas period because donations have, understandably, fallen off a cliff in the last few years.

People like to get a warm, fuzzy glow when they give money to Irish domestic charities. They want to think about the children they are helping, about conditions in the wards of children's hospitals getting better, about toys being bought, about a new machine being procured for sick kids, about trips to Barretstown, about respite for carers. People do not get a warm, fuzzy glow at the idea that their donations are going to top up the already healthy salary of a hospital or charity senior manager.

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