"Greed is good", especially in Ireland it seems with pillars of society on the take


Her claim that she has been singled out and vilified by the media is a reference to the fact that most senior consultants in the Irish health service earn big money from private patients in addition to their pay from state funds. 

One way or the other, it seems shocking that money from hospital car parks or shops or, even worse, public fundraising should be going to fund top-ups for the top people running our hospitals. 

A lot of hospitals here, including children's hospitals, have extensive fundraising operations, and people who support these are disgusted that some of the money they were raising was being diverted into the pockets of senior managers.   

The outcry over the Mahony case led to a review of pay to top managers in the other hospitals here and, surprise, surprise, it was revealed that nearly all of them are getting big top-ups in breach of the public sector pay cap. 

As public anger grew last week, the net was cast wider and other cases emerged in organizations that get public money.

Probably the most shocking was the case of the Central Remedial Clinic, one of the best known charitable organizations in the country which provides remedial care to handicapped people, accident victims and so on.

The clinic admitted last week that Paul Kiely, its former chief executive, had his state salary of €106,000 ($144,000) topped up by €136,000 ($185,000) in funds that came from public donations meant to support the work of the organization.  Charitable donations were also used to top up the salaries of several other CRC executives.  Kiely, who retired this summer, is a close friend of the former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern. 

As far as most people here are concerned, this was taking money away from handicapped children and adults who desperately needed it.  It is beyond disgusting. 

And to make matters even worse, it has been discovered that the fundraising arm of the CRC put €3 million ($4m) into the pension pot of the organization over the past year.  That's an awful lot of euros from CRC collection buckets filled by a sympathetic public on the streets of Ireland.  As I said, it is beyond disgusting.

All this is typical of what has gone on here since the austerity drive started after our economic collapse a few years ago. The top people – and particularly people who are paid by the state – have managed to insulate themselves from the shocks being felt among ordinary workers in the private sector. 

They have found ways of maintaining their Celtic Tiger pay, pensions and extras.  And their sense of entitlement – as in the case of Mahony – is staggering. 

It's a different mindset, a them and us mentality. They feel so important and essential that they regard themselves as exempt from the grinding austerity afflicting everyone else.

This is seen in particular in the whole pensions issue.  The pension schemes run by 80 percent of private companies in Ireland have been decimated by the economic crisis leaving the staff who have been paying into these schemes all their working lives with a very uncertain future. 
An example would be Independent News and Media (INM), the biggest media company in Ireland.  Its pensions have been cut in half.  Yet people in the state sector are still getting pensions that are almost as good as when the crisis began.

How?  The state simply borrows the money to pay them.

All state workers – teachers, nurses, police, etc. – benefit from this.  It also extends to the semi-state sector, like the ESB, the giant electricity supply company here which used to have a complete monopoly of the power market in Ireland and is still the dominant player.  Workers there (among the highest paid electricity workers in the world) are now threatening a national power strike in a few weeks because they are unhappy that their pension scheme is underfunded.

The value of the ESB pension scheme crashed with the stock markets, the same as the pension scheme in INM and numerous other private companies.  The difference is that workers in private companies are being left in the cold, but workers in the state and semi-state sectors, like the ESB and Aer Lingus, are getting their generous pensions paid.

No one should be surprised at this because all our politicians and senior civil servants are part of this system that protects their fat pensions.  Even our saintly president is in line for several guaranteed pensions when he retires. 

It's not just pensions.  The top-up scandal that breaches the public sector pay cap is also found at senior political level. The president, the taoiseach and senior ministers all have advisors who are getting salaries that are way above the capped level they are supposed to be at.