Dutch Bankers’ Bonuses Go Bye-Bye, Thanks to Twitter

One thing journalists from other countries ask quite frequently is why there haven’t been more riots or other expressions of collective anger in Ireland, given the scale of the problems we’ve faced and the sheer injustice of some of the actions taken since all of this began in 2007. I always answer that I have no idea why we haven’t seen more grass roots reactions like Bondwatch Ireland. I really don’t know.

Last March in Holland we had an example of twitter-inspired social unrest leading to the reversal of bonuses being paid out. This is the first I’ve seen of it, so I thought I’d blog it.

From the piece:

ING customers mobilised on Twitter and other social networks to protest at bonuses paid to bosses at the bank, one of the biggest in the country. The threat of direct action raised the spectre of a partial run on ING, terrifying the Dutch establishment. Fred Polhout, union organiser at the bank, says: “People were outraged. We heard about the bloated sums being paid again in the City and in New York; but suddenly the issue exploded on our own front door.”


So severe was the public reaction to Hommen’s bonus that within days he had agreed to waive the award and told other ING directors to do the same.

Fascinating, and perhaps something to watch for in the coming months in an Irish context.

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

68 replies on “Dutch Bankers’ Bonuses Go Bye-Bye, Thanks to Twitter”

My take on it is that that the Irish operate under tight self imposed social controls which inhibits collective protest. Maintaining “Face” as in China is extremely important, to protest individually would imply that one was not well connected and and not enjoying some of the benefits of political conniving.
I have relatives that maintain the best way to get the public interested in corruption is to give them some of the benefits. I have other relatives who maintain that this is what has already happened. I tend to agree with the latter.
However, even the Irish have a limit and when the dam breaks it will be brutal.
A link to more cynical political comments that any decent person should be exposed to.


I support performance related pay, whereby people get paid <<50% of salary dependant on performance criteria. Profit dependant banking bonuses are another matter….and need to be segregated.

We limited investment banking here, though those bonuses should be looked at…what we’ve more of are pension funds and investment intermediaries who cream ridiculous 1-2% transaction fees.

I fully support and carry out direct action aka ‘voting with your feet’ e.g. closing a bank account, not giving your money to clothing chains who are proven to abuse child labour, etc. though I would stop short at lobbing a brick through a window to vent my spleen.

However, my observation is that most people in Ireland are happy to live in ignorance/denial and not get involved. Changing channel would be the most you could expect from the average Irish person when confronted. Those with the brass necks here know this and regularly trade on it.

…and I hate to say it, but it’s very easy to spin and even lie in the Irish media setup too. You can say all sorts of things and get away with it unchallenged (I especially notice this with politicians and RTE). There aren’t too many Paxmans or Humphreys around over here. In general, Irish journalists will let you feed them anything because they don’t go to the bother of educating themselves about a specific area or subject and can’t recognise bs when it comes in their direction. Try doing that to someone like Gillian Tett or Robert Peston and you would get eaten alive.

I appreciate there are exceptions to that and one or two of them get mentioned in these here parts and sometimes even contribute.

The threat of direct action raised the spectre of a partial run on ING, terrifying the Dutch establishment.

Is this sentence lies the explanation for the continued mismanagement of this crisis, and the solution to it.

Governments will continue down the unpopular and destructive path of appeasing the creditor classes until direct action from the public scares them into doing something else. The very first example of this was in Iceland, where direct protest by citizens banging pots and pans outside the parliament building deterred the government from its original plan to bail out the Icelandic banks.

Governments will not turn away from their present course of socializing private bank losses until the citizenry rebel or threaten to rebel. That is all there is to it.

But another way, here’s a Frederick Douglas quote which applies so well to present day Ireland.

Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

The Irish will put up with a lot, so that’s exactly what they’re going to get until things change.

The best thing people in this country can do to force the government’s hand is to withdraw their money from the banks and put it in the post office. This actually almost happened live on air in 2008, when Joe Duffy’s Liveline program on bank stability almost caused a bank run. And this country would have been a lot better off if Duffy hadn’t caved into bank and government pressure shut that protest down. We could have put the banks into receivership for a start, and never have had to pay for the likes of Anglo or AIB, and would have gotten Granton’s parliment into the deal.

Bottom line, we’re not going to see any change in government policy without public pressure or protest of some kind.

“The best thing people in this country can do to force the government’s hand is to withdraw their money from the banks and put it in the post office”
So put pressure on the government by lending them more? You do know the post monies are invested in gilts yes?

@PR Guy,

Given your indicated occupation, I’m taken by your take on the media. Having observed them – and, occasionally, but unsuccessfully, having endeavoured to interest them in various issues – I reserve the largest share of my bile for them (apart from, as you noted, some honourable expections).

In any democracy worth its name a free, unrestrained press is one of the key elements. The media are the eyes and ears of the people ferreting out what the powerful, wealthy and influential would prefer to keep hidden from public view. The media in Ireland are merely the court jesters for these very people.

But is it a problem on the demand-side or on the supply-side? It’s probably a bit of both, since Ireland has English-style, freedom of expression-curtailing libel laws. But I sense that the problem is more on the demand-side – and probably more so than in many other democracies.

Most Irish citizens very jealoulsy, and quite rightly, assert their right to elect the TDs and factions of TDs, a majority of whom elect the Taoiseach and, thereby, the government. But, once this is done, they appear to be reluctant to extend this delegation of their ultimate power and authority to TDs scrutinise, modify and exercise restraint on how they are governed or to hold government properly to account. They seem to prefer to have TDs as constituency advocates and mini-onbudspersons extracting local or individual benefits or redress from the government machine. In a similar manner, it appears that they are equally reluctant to delegate responsibility to the media to scrutinise government (or others exercising power and influence) or to hold them to account – though they tend to be unusually adept at using the media to highlight individual, local or sectional grievances.

At the foundation of the state Ireland was gifted a functioning system of parliamentary and local governance that was 800 years in the making. But most Irish citizens, since then, have no understanding or experience of, of see no need for, a functioning parliament that, once it elects a government, then subjects that government to scrutiny and restraint and holds it to account for the duration of that parliament. There is simply no underatanding that an appropriately empowered and resourced parliament is the most effective means of subjecting native power elites to democratic governance. Rather than use a parliament in this manner or rely on the media to inform both them and their public representatives (as citizens in most other parliamentary democracies do), most citizens prefer to communicate directly any displeasure they may have with government during its term in office by using any voting opportunity (by-election, Euro, local, presidential, referendum) that occurs.

This is gloriously inefficient and often ineffective – and, occasionally, can lead to unintended outcomes for a majority of citizens. But the alienable right to do seem to be something that a majority of Irish citizens cherish.

In addition, given the grip government has over the Oireachtas, voters may be reluctant to grant the Oireachtas any more powers or resources as they would be granting them, by default, to government. And there are a plethora of civil society bodies advancing citizens’ narrow sectional economic interests with the government and the government machine behind the scenes. They may view this as being a far more effective and efficient means of protecting and advancing narrow sectional economic interests than relying on members of the Oireachtas who are tightly whipped in to line by the Government. And they probably would prefer not to have the media poking their noses in to these behind the scenes machinations.

As a result I believe that the majority of Irish citizens have no interest in a properly functioning parliamentary and local governance system on in the media scrutinising the powerful, welathy and influential and holding them to account. They prefer to express their judgement in the polling booths every opportunity they get and have little time for any other sort of mass popular political activity.

Unfortunately, as we have seen this runs the risk of the election (and re-election) of stupid governments – and, even worse, their replacement by one just as stupid.

I laugh cynically every time I hear the much touted phrase – ‘the sophisticated Irish electorate’ – being uttered in the main by a servile and supine media along with their political fellow travellers. Th e complete opposite is the case as shown by the results of elections at both local and national level over the last twenty years.
Apathy does indeed reign, particularly in the rural districts outside of urban areas. The quality of life and housing etc is considerably better and attachment to and interest in the status quo is embedded to a greater degree.
The use of social media as a force for change is something that is well worth exploring but the problem is always – change to what and whom?
The grip of esablished elites in all aspects of life on this island is deep and pervasive – they do not retreat or go away easily and are always at the ready to jump on an bandwagon going in order to secure their power and positions.
It is very difficult to be in any way optimistic about radical and positive change on this island.

Or maybe Dutch bankers are just soft (after all every banker in every other country got away with it)!!

Blogs like this leave a chink of light into the room at least. Note Fintan O’Toole’s nervous (and risible) defence of retiring public servants in the IT last week. He mentioned that the “chat rooms” (whatever they are) were always demonising the public service and specifically mentioned increments. This is how official Ireland responds to any stirrings of dissent – quench it quick in the IT or on Morning Ireland and usually the public is herded along to the next news cycle.

Only 1 day to go before the Professors get their 6,500 euro pay rise! Most of which will be sucked out of the economy and into a foreign savings account. How can we sneak it by the mugs who pay for all this?

Quick look over there – a banker getting his bonus! Boo! Hiss!

So not only are the professors now getting a pay rise (apart from the fact that they arent, as we saw a few threads ago, some may get increments (as opposed to a pay rise which i generally take to be an increase in the base levels from which all else are calculated) up to 6500, but hey, facts..) but its all going to go abroad. Because, like all public sector workers they are all flush with cash from ‘corruption’ was that the word used earlier on, and this is now salted away abroad. Meanwhile, the meeja are in cahoots with the government who are in cahoots with the public sector to do down the poor bankers. Risible, meaning causing laughter is a good word.
More dried frog pills for you JF


I fear that the social media will flatter to deceive. In any event, it’s pretty clear that a majority of citizens have no interest in the ‘radical and positive change’ that is required – how ever it might be achieved. They, also, and probably rightly, are wary of the unelected and self-appointed securing unwarranted power and influence, but they don’t seem to want a functioning system of parliamentary and local governance either. The social media effect might work in the Netherlands because it has a long-established system of parliamentary democracy and governance and social media might help to complement this and to keep parliament and government on its toes. It runs with the grain and is not an alternative.

This failure to establish a functioning democratic system of governance is the curse of former colonies and countries emerging from totalitarian regimes from which many countries struggle to escape – and many, including Ireland, remain ensnared for a long time.

This, of course, does not absolve members of the Oireachtas or the media from the responsibility to deliver what a majority of citizens do not seem to want. They might be pleasantly surprised since there is no shortage of evidence of discontent, apathy and lack of trust in the political process.

Subject to the constraints in the Constitution – and those imposed by international undertakings in to which Ireland has entered – the Oireachtas is supreme between general elections. It exercises the ultimate, delegated authority of the people. Government is a creature of the Oireachtas and should be of, by and for the Oireachtas – and ultimately the people.

But it would be a brave TD who would seek to restore the system of parliamentary democracy that Ireland was gifted in 1922 and has subsequently been developed in other jurisdictions. And brave TDs we do not have.

Sophisticated is usually trotted out to mean “at least we can use STV in multiseat constituencies not like the poor brits who cant fathom it at all at all’

@Philip II
It would really shock me if 10% of the population could give a detailed explanation of the transfer of votes in a multi seat constituency. this is one of the sops that is thrown out to us to make us feel superior,
Best education system in the world
Hardest state exams in the world
A natural entrepreneurial spirit
Loved all over the world
additions welcome

by the way I read a PDF once that is given to the returning officers detailing all the rules for vote transfers and couldn’t get my head around the detail. so i count myself one of the 90%

@Stephen Kinsella

Thanks for the link to bondwatch–Diarmuid O’Flynn site
About 600 million for Anglo bonds prior to Christmas and a further 2250 million in January, 1000million of which is unsecured!!.

It was and is nothing other than a massive fraud/theft perpetrated by the large European powers on behalf of their banks, using the ECB as the supposedly independent Luca Brazzi.
The stupid and servile Irish simply rolled over. What a shame.

@ Phillip II

could you (or anyone else) please elaborate on the differences, in your opinion, between a salary increase and an increment? For most people, they appear at the very least to be very similar.

@johnny foreigner

I haven’t seen any reports in the media covering the professor’s pay rise, which I find very odd given the times. But it is no surprise half the media probably have a family member working in third level, while the other half probably hope for a sinecure there for themselves.

Have any of the trade unions come out against the pay rise? Correct me if I am wrong but does the pay rise roll back some of the levies Lenihan introduced?

Apparently, no pay cuts have been applied to Anglo staff for the last three years.

Oh to be among the elites…

@ Eoin
An increment refers to a step (upwards) in the pay scale of the particular job. Said job will have a ladder of pay rates.
A pay rise, ala partnership, was a % increase of the salary and therefore all the increments too.
Lad earlier is referring to a movement up the pay scale, aka an increment.
Typing on phone here, explanation could have been better!

Back to the Bonus thing. Wouldn’t it be more correct, since this is supposedly a scientific forum, to use the technical term ‘commission’ for the payments to bankers?

“Bonus” implies some merit, some wise estimation of worth, when these guys were actaually being paid like a car-salesman or inurance peddlar. As well as being more correct, would it not better convey the essential issue, that is the in-built incentive to fraud in modern banking? We are immediately on our guard when listening to car-salesman and insurance people, because we understand the implications of payment by commission, so a change in the usage by economists and media would focus the electorate on the real issue.

Let’s face it – we haven’t won a war against anybody since 1014 and even then we weren’t united.
Look how quickly this thread turned into a faction fight!
Only a fool would join a resistance movement that is so divided it is bound to fail.
There is no collective here. The harsh reality is that it is everybody for themselves

Tut, tut, Mr. Bond. It appears you are being a tad mischevious and provocative. You could render the singular and totally altruistic Mr. Ball apoplectic. That would not be good. I’m sure you’re well aware that increments are pre-agreed, contractual, annual step-changes in salary to reflect the knowledge, experience and skill that the recepients accumulate with each passing year – among other things, such as ‘lowish’ starting salary scales discounting the job security.

In any event, when you take account of all these levies and deductions and the fact that Ireland is a very expensive place to live – though nobody seems to be able to figure out why this is the case – I’m sure you don’t begrudge these folks their entitlements.

Eoin Bond
A pay rise is in my lexicon when the base scale of pay rises. This is to be distinct from when one rises within a pay scale, if one exists.

“I haven’t seen any reports in the media covering the professor’s pay rise”
That’s either because it’s a massive conspiracy of silence as you believe OR because there isn’t such a beast. William of Occam is your friend here…
Feel free to come back and apologies for your ill tempered rant any time

Is it too much to ask the moderators to delete posts that post pater falsehoods ? Most posts here alluding or alleging something give links, which makes their comments much more usable. Allegations of pay rise where none exist serve only to stoke intra group strife.

@Philip II

When you’re explaining you’re losing. This is how it sounds to a private sector worker:

Me: Professors are getting a pay rise.
You: It’s not a pay rise, it’s an increment.
Private sector worker: So their pay doesn’t go up?
You: Oh it goes up alright – 6.5k for some! Lovely jubbly!
Private sector worker: So it’s like the performance-related pay scales we have in the private sector? When we move up those scales we call them pay rises.
You: Not at all my easily duped friend. Now shut yer face and pay yer taxes.
Private sector worker: Wtf?

I’m sure you’ll raise the issue of many profs being at the top of their scales and not getting increments. But do you really want to go there? Might be awkward having to explain where the top actually ends (ie close to 150k). And then we might have to raise the comparisons with the UK scales.

Like I said – when you’re explaining you’re losing. Plan A is keep quiet, snaffle up the increments and pray this all somehow blows over. I’d stick to that if I were you.


It’s a reward for not dying. That’s the extent of the performance assessment. You go into HR and confirm you made it through another year. “Well done!” they cry and off you go with your tasty wedge in your back pocket.

Of course the civil service has a fake performance assessment scheme. More than 99% of workers are deemed satisfactory every year. It’s modelled on the Stalin-era tractor production stats I think.

@ Philip II

Colour me unconvinced.

The increment has nothing to do with inflation, is pre-agreed, and does not, as far as i’m aware, need to be justified by any metric or attributable reason, other than the fact that someone has managed to not leave, retire or get fired (i know, very difficult in the PS). It simply kicks in each year, even if nobody does anything.

A pay rise, outside of any inflation-linking, is not pre-agreed, and would generally, at least at some level, need to be justified by some sort of metric or attributable reason (even if bogus or vague). It actually requires someone to look for, get approval and enact it.

So, netting these two out, an increment appears to me to be a pre-agreed, unattributable stepped pay rise, based purely and solely on the unmeasured concept that each additional years experience makes you similarly more productive? I’d prefer a standard pay rise to be honest, at least that way someones accountable (in theory, i know) for the decision.

A genuinely non-mischievous (seriously PH!) question – do increments impact on existing pensioners (ie the linkage between existing workers and pensioners)?

Lawyers appeal to the head of the IMF to protect their vintage gravy train; the Irish Times reports that the Government is expected to pay out between €250 million and €300 million in the year ahead in increments for public service staff who are due to move up a further point on their pay scale while non-pay programs are subject to big cuts.

There is enough of spin about, other than fools trying to argue that a pay rise is not really one.

Where is the outrage about the €5m slush fund operated within the State’s biggest trade union? Where is the outrage that a two-tier standard of employment is being introduced in the public service to protect existing privileges? What has happened the right of equal pay for equal work?

Stephen Kinsella maybe puzzled why the Irish are so docile in the face of adversity; the rise in annual welfare costs from €8bn to €21bn over a decade while inflation rose by 30% must surely be the biggest factor.

Referring to the practice of retired teachers returning to the profession, Minister Howlin at an Oireachtas hearing described this as an “annoying factor”. He said a measure to prevent this had been proposed in the last Dáil but then removed by amendment. Teachers are the biggest occupational group in the Oireachtas and the FF leader could reclaim his job anytime at Presentation College in Cork.

They have power but operate as if the current crisis is a temporary difficulty rather than a huge generational challenge.

Howlin agreed that some 3,000 new people would be recruited into the public and Civil Service following a query from Labour TD Derek Nolan.

The search for scapegoats in Europe or anywhere else has consequences; it means that the fundamental failings in the Irish system will not be addressed.

Europeans have to write off the debt and the Irish business as usual can be restored.

The political architects of the crash entered national politics in 1977 and like the Bourbans after an interval of turmoil, when the Irish equivalents took control two decades after the start of the first period of gross economic mismanagement, they had learned nothing.

@ Philip II

Feel free to come back and apologies for your ill tempered rant any time

Your demand for an apology from another poster is a joke.

Behind the shield of anonymity, you show neither basic decency nor manners.

Following your rant on another thread, I note that you didn’t reply to a simple question:

‘Have you any experience of startups, selling domestically or developing export sales?’


A clarification re professors’ increments, that might just alleviate some of the post-pudding excess bile problems that seem to be afflicting some…

Increments are awarded only within a grade. When you get to the top of the grade, no more increments till you get promoted to a higher grade.

There’s been a promotions ban since 2009 (if not 2008? — can’t remember). On top of that, most academics spend quite a few years at the top of each grade (ie without increments) before qualifying for a promotion.

There are generally around 6 increments in a grade. Usually, promotions are to step 2 or 3 in a grade, as the salary points overlap by one or two steps. So most would have four or five incremental increases before having to apply for a very competitive (and now frozen) promotions process.

… All of which means that the number of professors receiving an increment is going to be very very small this year — at most, those promoted in 2007-8, probably.

… None of which is to say that they should be getting them, but realising that a small minority of academics are involved might help the rest of us down our Lidl cava a little more enthusiastically on new year’s eve.

Eureka and Tim O’Halloran are right. The former in terms of the lack of any sense of the ‘collective’ and the latter in trying to get the focus back on these darned ‘bonuses’ snaffled by bankers.

Most people are defined primarily by their occupations or professions – even when they are retired – and most have active, representative bodies advancing and protecting their narrow sectional interests relative to all others. This helps to keep a focus on relative wages and salaries and is a boon to those exercising power and influence and those capturing unearned profits as it makes the game of divide and conquer so easy and deflects attention from these unearned profits.

It would be wonderful, but it’s almost certain not to happen, if the vast majority of those not at the top levels of their organisations whose primary source of income is wages or salaries (irrespective of private or public sector) were to open their eyes and recognise that they are being equally ripped off.

The initial focus should be on non-wage costs while nominal pay is left unchanged. A bit of concerted effort in this area would have a major impact on most real disposable incomes across the board and would boost economic activity. Wage costs, where appropriate could follow.

Bankers’ bonuses arise mainly from a failure of governance by shareholders and a lack of competition. Bank restructuring and more competition would make sure the bankers would earn their crust.

But, across the board, this is is absolutely not the kind of thing those who exercise economic power want to see. But they don’t have to worry while workers in various occupations and sectors fight each other like cats.

@ Pleite

some useful context there, thank you. The principal of it is highly questionable, but the impact depends on the exact circumstances of particular departments etc. Ta.

Jihnny ; id love to “snaffle ” said increments…alas, I can’t. Can you? If so, how can I get same?
Michael H
Didn’t see that question hence no reply: was it directed at me qua me? In that case yes…

@philip II

There is a great deal of schadenfreude among commentators every time an applecart hauling ‘banker bonuses’ is upset. Yet when the spotlight is swung back onto the culture of entitlement in the public service the response verges on outrage (and evidently unearned personal abuse).

If the government was as mindful of Occam’s Razor as they should be, pubic service increments would be stopped. There is no commercial sense to present public service salary policy.

Assuming the government really wants to reduce the deficit to 3% by 2015/16, how on earth will annual increment bills of hundreds of millions help? Every cat and dog will about howling in protest about privatization. Would less of it be necessary if increments were suspended?

If a company is traveling downwards, its doesn’t raise pay all round.

Ah, folks. Ernie is right. Leave the academics alone. For the most part they fit Sean Lemass’s description of the then Labour Party as the “most honourable, decent, harmless bunch of men that ever graced a parliament”.

You can be sure that any of them with knowledge and competence in the public policy sphere won’t rock the boat too much. And as for the rest, let them retire gracefully and peacefully in to their posts. Taking more money off them would serve no useful purpose.

In any event, Happy New Year to all here. My key markers for the new year are the likely failure of the Dail to compel the Government to think again when it introduces legislation to part-privatise the ESB and how the CER will decide to treat BGE’s gas interconnectors from Scotland.

These outcomes will tell us all we need to know about democratic governance, public policy making and economic regulation in Ireland.

No, Paul, you are right. If only the country hadn’t been saddled with all those thieving academics, everything would have been fine. I mean, are you aware that some tiny fraction of them are getting increments of €6,500?! The Anglo bailout pales in comparison.

Your assuming I think that I AGREE with increments in a state where we are borrowing what, 20b pa? Note however that I do NOT agree with the idea that a) increments on a scale are what most consider pay rises (semantics perhaps but..) b) that it serves any purpose other than whipping up resentment and bile to post that there is a whole whackload of people getting pay rises (as opposed to increments)
The govt can and perhaps should look at increments; they havent for political reasons. I suggest that anyone getting any increase in salary either from scale level increases or from within scale contractual agreements is unlikely to give them back. I wouldnt nor would you.

@ Bond

“do increments impact on existing pensioners (ie the linkage between existing workers and pensioners)?”

Increments don’t impact on existing pensions but pay rises do.

@ M Hennigan
“Where is the outrage that a two-tier standard of employment is being introduced in the public service to protect existing privileges? What has happened the right of equal pay for equal work?”

It is disgraceful that newer recruits to the PS have less pay and worse terms of employment than exisiting PS employees, but the beards sanctioned this inequality. Perhaps they were too busy spending the slush fund to realise the implications of their actions.

@ Bolshevik

Cheers. Can anyone (even Ernie B) justify the pay increases leading to existing pension increases? Shouldn’t they just be inflation linked? The whole system appears nuts and rigged to anyone not in the public sector. This isnt a rant, more of a shaking of the head moment.

the whole PS/CS pension system is a sick joke on everyone bar the pensioners. COLA (cost of living adjustment) should be the norm. But, pensioners vote in large numbers.

It is a kind of a rant though isn’t it.
Public sector pay and pensions are actually the last stimulus left in the economy tanks to banksters screwing up everything.
But fair is fair. I don’t mind real private sector people having a go at the public service but bankers…..Come on now….

I worked for a foreign government that imposed a hiring freeze and a pay freeze for two years. Everyone from Deputy Ministers on down had an actual pay freeze, no increments, no performance pay, no overtime (time off in lieu). Reassignment on the basis of existing salary and suitable training, fired for non performance if training was not successful. Promotions without pay increase, this did not allow the CS/PS to game the system. Life went on, the public got their usual service and life returned to normal after the two years. In terms of career the clock was stopped for two years and at the end it was restarted. If your increment was due a month after the clock stopped it was granted a month after the clock restarted.
I look at Ireland through those experiences and to me the Irish Gov’t looks incompetent. It is a complex and long standing problem with no simple solution due to the fact that it is deeply embedded in the culture. What has changed now is that we have had a quarter century of prosperity and people have expectations of government and themselves that did not exist prior to 1973. From 1987 up to 2008 the gov’t appeared to to be competent and the public were content. Then the nightmare began under FF and continues under FG. The level of incompetence is staggering and will not be without consequences. The fatalism and pessimism of the pre 1973 era is eroding slowly and in time progress will be made. Passivity too will pass.

@Mr. Bond,

You may well shake your head, but while the focus is on pay costs there will be unnecessary conflict and excessive non-pay costs, inefficiencies, monopoly profit-gouging and deadweight costs will not get the attention they deserve. And this suits those who benefit from these inefficiencies just fine. They just love this cat-fight about public v private sector pay – and will do their best to fuel it.

And, Ernie, hi, Ernie, this “I should get off because my sin is a venialler while you should be hanged because yours is a mortaller” routine doesn’t really work anymore. The majority of citizens have a common enemy in all of this, but while they remain focused on protecting and advancing their narrow sectional economic interests, in competition and in conflict with all others, it will remain a paradise for the subsidy-grabbers, regulator-capturers, market-riggers, rent-seekers and consumer gougers. And, hard as it may be for you to believe, they exist right across the political spectrum.

Meanwhile, in a week when Alan Dukes made clear that he didn’t see why anybody at IRBC should take any kind of pay cut (and they haven’t had their pay cut in at least 3 years), I note that people here cannot bring themselves to talk about the nominal initial topic. For banker pay, they simply acknowledge, deplore and move on. Public-sector pay, on the other hand, seems to be something they can discuss ad nauseam, even if it means pulling out of one’s arse examples (the “professor” on a €6,500 increment of which the total number could probably be counted on one hand if there is even one) that are of zero relevance to either Ireland’s fate or to how Ireland got into its current dreadful position.

Never mind that any academics getting increments would have got them in September. So even Johnny Foreigner’s inflammatory exclamation that “Only 1 day to go before the Professors get their 6,500 euro pay rise!” wasn’t true. But, then, that wasn’t its purpose.

@ Paul
With all due respect your list is diffuse and poorly defined. I stand to be corrected but surely the enemy is an international runaway banking sector

I don’t want their pay cut, I want them sacked/imprisoned/demoted/whatever.

It’s almost totally unrelated to that other problem of how to balance the state’s books…

I know it’s oh so easy to point the finger at the evil foreigners because it means that seeking out and confronting the enemy within may be avoided, but the enemy without will be dealt with by those who are able to bring it to heel. All we can do is minimise its ability to damage us. But as for the enemy within..

Yes, my list is ‘diffuse and poorly defined’. If libel laws were not so severe I would name names, but I have no wish to visit the attention of m’learned friends on Prof Lane – or indeed on myself.

For many people with knowledge and competence in these areas, as some have found to their cost, being too outspoken and discombobulating those who exercise and abuse economic and political power can be career-limiting, if not career-threatening.

Far better, and easier, and more rewarding to pretend to believe in the optical illusion and if a desire to comment surfaces, stick to the ‘big picture’ stuff where the big decisions are being made by the official lenders, international institutions and leading politicians of the ‘great powers’. All you need to do is look at the topics of the majority of thread-opening posts on this blog – and the paucity and anaemic nature of any of those purporting to address Irish microeconomic issues.

@ Ernie Ball

Doesn’t it say everything about Irish economics that a thread about banker’s bonuses becomes a litany of hysterical rants against nurse’s increments?

Is it too much to hope that Howlin does not recruit ANY Irish educated economists to his economic think tank? Imagine this hysterical rabble of ideologues in charge of something as complicated as running a country, instead of their day jobs (1) running banks into the ground and (2) being apologists for economy destroying bankers.

@ Paul Hunt
Please help me out
the subsidy-grabbers – who are these??
and consumer gougers??
And how does a teacher, a guard or a nurse fit into this list?

I’m struggling to find logic here.

@Tim O’Halloran

There is nothing more corrosive to the dream of a progressive Ireland than the sight of the insider elite that have always run this country gorging themselves at the trough of the public purse. All the noble causes deserving of public resources are harmed by the rent-seekers (name your special interest group – and the public sector unions are right up there) and the market riggers (ESB? commercial landlords?). Why should the private sector continue to believe in solidarity when they see the taxes they thought were to be used for an Ireland of equal opportunities and social safety nets going to the plutocrats who are always more equal than others?

Every bankster story is a victory for progressive politics – I celebrate when I see the media discussing them. But every fiddle perpetrated by the insiders is a defeat likely to contribute to a reactionary future with Gerry Adams or Declan Ganley at the helm. That’s why we have to be just as hard on the Profs as the bankers. It may not be the same amount of money but the impact on the public sensibility is just the same.

@Johnny Foreigner

Yet, funnily enough, you’re harder on (and go on at much greater length about) your fictional professor getting an increment than you are about the fact that the CEO of IBRC is on a remuneration package of nearly €1 million. Why is that?

@Johnny Foreigner

The whole ‘insider’ thing is a pathetic thing invented by David McWilliams purely to avoid taking a stand on the relations of the classes. McWilliams wants to be popular, while avoiding upsetting the small oligarchy that controls this country.

The simplest proof is that he tolerates the peddling of the Green/FF nonsense that his influence was decisive in formulating the Guarantee, refsuing to point out that the influence of well-known tax-exiles was far more like to have swayed the Brians.

@Ernie Ball

“Why is that?”

Because I am a Professor at an Irish University receiving annual increments. And yes, the next one arrives in exactly 2 hours. Maybe different universities have different policies on paying them? In any event I hardly think it matters whether it’s paid in September or January.

I speak about what I know about and as someone who worked for 10 years in a world class British university I know that Irish academia is full of overpaid, work-shy, low-talent, no marks who wouldn’t survive five minutes in a decent university overseas.

Break out the smelling salts Ernie – you’ll need plenty of them in 2012!

@Tim O’Halloran

Come on! What else would you call the situation whereby the unions have opted to protect the pay of existing PS workers to the extent that new teaching and nursing graduates have to emigrate? And there are no new police recruits? And no jobs for new PhDs? And the few new recruits to the PS start on lower salaries and are de facto second class citizens? This is the insiders running wild.

@ Johnny Foreigner
Interesting – very interesting.
May I ask why you moved from a world class British university to an Irish backwater?


I’m Irish, moved home 3 years ago. I’m still trying to figure out what has happened to the place I left in the late 90s.

Johnny Foreigner Says:
December 31st, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Because I am a Professor at an Irish University….

I speak about what I know about and as someone who worked for 10 years in a world class British university I know that Irish academia is full of overpaid, work-shy, low-talent, no marks who wouldn’t survive five minutes in a decent university overseas.


Well Mr. Professor, I for one can say that I have zero respect for you, to come here anonymously and start such a slander is telling me a lot about you in deed.

Frankly, I do not not believe that you are a Professor teaching at an Irish University, but I stand to be corrected, should I be proven wrong however, your statements here discredited only yourself.

@Georg R. Baumann

Prove me wrong – post the results of the last research assessment exercise done in Ireland. What’s that? Oh yeah, there isn’t one. How about a national review of teaching standards in Irish universities in Ireland? Oh yeah, there isn’t one of those either. The only thing in the public realm is the salary scales which are ridiculous compared to the UK.

Why do you find it difficult to believe I’m a Professor at an Irish university? Do you think we’ve all drunk the kool-aid? Believe it or not we don’t all march in step.

@ Johnny Foreigner
So you’re not really a foreigner at all (ok that’s silly of me).
Here’s what happened since the 90’s.
Irish banks borrowed loadza money from German banks. So if you were buying a house you were competing with people who had 500-600k thrown at them for no good reason other than the banking system made it available. I bought during this time and bank manager wanted to throw even more money at us than we were comfortable with (110% mortgage + bridging loan for example). Anyway all this credit fed back to the exchequer through stamp duty. And the exchequer had more money than it knew what to do with. So it was a double bubble all facilitated by a dumb as s**t banking sector.
Now people say you aren forced to borrow money but believe me if banks are flooding the market with cheap credit and you want shelter you are (because renting becomes ridiculously expensive too).
It’s good to see your attitude re universities but in your zeal to improve academia don’t let the bankers off the hook. Universities might be a symptom but really rubbish bankers are the cause and the disease. This is an international problem not caused by a few Profs in Irish Universities


I feel like a foreigner. It’s melodrama.

I agree with every word you wrote. My angst is with those who should know better. I don’t expect bankers to behave well, or the Murdoch rags or Fox News but I do expect more from public servants, from RTE, from the Irish Times. Why do we have a Labour Party that can never aspire to anything other than junior membership in a coalition? Because it doesn’t aspire to represent working class people, it’s the official wing of insiders. Look at the people at the top – hacks from start to finish, student union leaders from private schools groomed from day one to enjoy the cream and make sure there’s enough for the chosen few. Who introduced the crazy policy of free university education? A Labour minister. Now we have the sons and daughters of the elite getting medical degrees for free (ish) when their market value is north of 300k (to the non-EU students). Those same students then demand crazy salaries to work in the public medical system and threaten the people who paid for their education that they’ll emigrate if we don’t co-operate.

And all this at a time when there are horrendous cutbacks in genuinely useful public sector activities. And if the beards and the rest were given their head I think that nothing would be sacred in the rush to protect the insider’s salaries. Already there is talk of cutting back on student numbers (Michael Murphy) and you can be sure they’ll be kids from disadvantaged areas who are on the wrong end of the cuts (although it will done under the cover of ability not wealth).

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