“This negation of democracy will have to be brought to an end..”

The Irish Minister for Communication, the Green Party’s Eamon Ryan, has been predicting “root and branch reform” of the banking system in the New Year.. but not necessarily how that will be achieved.. And, as the Dáil awaits re-awakening from its traditional recess, in the Irish Times Stephen Collins picks up on murmurings of discontent with unelected “social partners”, effectively, in government at a time of economic crisis.

“The point about democracy is that we are elected by the people and can be thrown out by the people if they don’t think we are up to the job,” said one senior political figure. “The social partners are not accountable to the electorate but they have acquired far more power than almost any elected politician. This negation of democracy will have to be brought to an end.”

Of course it will be far better for the country if the social partners go along with the measures required to bring the public finances under control so that industrial strife can be avoided. The problem, though, is that social partnership itself has contributed to the scale of the problem in the public finances. Those involved have a vested interest in ensuring that the problem is approached in a way that serves their own interests, and not necessarily the common good.

For instance, as the Economic and Social Research Institute pointed out in its recent bleak quarterly report, salaries in the public service are about 20 per cent higher than in the private sector. And this is before the priceless assets of job security and pensions, vastly in excess of comparable ones for PAYE workers in the private sector, are taken into account.

This enormous imbalance between the pay and conditions of PAYE workers in the private and public sectors is a direct result of social partnership. It has been connived at by all concerned, including the employers’ body, Ibec. With pay freezes and pay cuts already being implemented for private sector workers, this imbalance will become ever more pronounced unless urgent action is taken.

Of course, as elsewhere, the “sacking civil servants is the work of a generation..”

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  • So it wasn’t the banks’ fault after all. It was all the fault of the trade unions. Spare us.

  • Pete Baker


    Didn’t I add the banks to the issues raised by Stephen Collins?

    Try to take the post as a whole rather than fixating focussing on one single element of it.

  • finches

    “Try to take the post as a whole rather than focussing on one single element of it.”

    Is that a simple spelling mistake or is it Ulster-Scots?

    (Disclaimer: I have never been to Ballymena)

  • Glencoppagagh

    Since focus(s)ing is an example of the lazy conversion of nouns into verbs, how it is spelt is a matter of taste. It’s not a proper word.
    Concentrating or emphasising would have served the purpose better.

  • Glencoppagagh

    The excessively high relative remuneration of public servants is a serious problem in its own right and needed to be addressed. Other events have merely given it added urgency in that the government now desperately needs to contain expenditure.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The argument here is so broken that it’s hard to know where to start. The government failed to see this crisis coming, in the same way that the banks failed; they failed to have appropriate regulation and they built large parts of their fiscal policy around it.

    The idea that another group of people who failed to spot a crisis, but whom are apparently better qualified to make decisions because the electorate voted them in, should somehow be involved in senior executive appointments in private companies is perverse. Even more so considering that out of the 22 Irish governments that there have been since the present State was founded, Fianna Fail have been the major coalition partner in 17 of them. So much for accountability.

    The current economic problems are as much about governments admitting that they failed to spot (or deliberately ignored) all the warning signs and as such failed to act appropriately. Let the shareholders deal with the fate of the people they elected to run the companies they own; in the meantime, the government must introduce regulation to ensure that these problems are not likely to recur. Caps on mortgage lending with respect to income and equity, and restrictions on the relationships between hedge funds and retail/business banking, would be a good start.

  • tuatha

    Interesting to note the debate, no matter where in the (white West) world, splits into identical groupings.
    Dare none call it Konspiracy? Well, certainly not this little wood duck coz, here in the Antipodes, there is an axiom “if it’s a toss up of conspiracy or cock-up, it’s usually the latter.”
    Step back from the fray for a moment and look at the root problem – too much money, in too few hands, looking for a place to breed.
    When money becomes a commodity (intrinsically, in-and-of-itself) it ceases to be a tool to facilitate trade and morphs into an unsatisfiable maw.
    Think about the basis of so many of the “jobs” in modern w/W societies, look at the broadsheet ads for civil servants and finacial engineers (sic!).
    Honestly, if 90% evaporated tomorrow how would the average citizen be inconvenienced? Assuming that they even noticed.
    And why WOULD they?

  • frustrated democrat

    The problem with money is that it ceases to be real once it gets outside most people’s personal understanding say at about £1,000,000.

    It just becomes a series of noughts in a computer with no tangible meaning to those dealing with it; the UK is £4,000,000,000,000 in debt – what does that mean in real money? – about £70,000 for everyone in the UK is easier to understand or even £140,000 for every employee.

    Or based on total tax take all of the UK’S next 7 years income or if we increase current taxes by 20% – 25 years to pay off.