Afternoon Blog - 04 December 2010

Criticism, analysis, response: The BudgetJam live blog.  Email your comments here or comment below.

16.56 In the morning, I read the alternative budget proposals published yesterday by the Unite union. This is a really superb document. It punctures many of the reigning orthodoxies, is accessibly written and, most importantly, seems to have been drafted by people with something other than ice water for blood. It is such a shame that the document has received so little attention today, especially given the publicity that the baleful budgets of the parties in waiting have attracted. We should perhaps try and get the word about the Unite proposals out to a wider audience. And if any other groups have produced alternative budgets that challenge the idiotic premises of the abomination that will befall us on Tuesday next then please send them on.

I am signing off now and Therese will be looking after the site in a short time. Mind your footing out there and here is something festive to warm the bones


16.19 This has just arrived from Mark Malone in response to my suggestion of a 'Guess Who's Having a Good Recession?' thread. This is the kind of material I was thinking of, so please keep it coming.

The 'Dublin based' - read 'tax dodging' - subsidiary of Goldman Sachs seem to be riding the global turbulence pretty well. The cannily named Goldman Sachs (Europe) are based in Dublin and luckily for them are overseen by the Financial Regulator of Ireland. Their profits more than doubled from pretax figures of $86.7 million (€68.09 million) in 2009, compared with $36.3 million the previous year, the accounts show. With a registered address at Hardwicke House Hatch St Upper Dublin 2, such massive rises in profit even came as staff numbers were cut from 55 to 48. The staff earned a total of $13.35 million during 2009, according to the accounts, which was $1 million more than the earnings of a greater number of staff in 2008. This works out at an average of $278,125 a year, or just under $5,350 (€4000) a week for those of us who live on a week to week basis, be that from benefits or wage slavery. But averages are deceptive. While some working for Goldman Sachs (Europe) draw modest wages others earn fortunes. The corporation features a number of Irish people at its senior levels. Among those drawing large salaries are the chairman of The Irish Times Ltd, David Went, who is an independent director, as well as Patrick Mulvihill, James O’Dwyer, Cornelius O’Sullivan, Richard O’Toole, and Brian Strahan.


15.43  In the Irish Independent today there is a taster of the vision, selflessness and egalitarianism that the leaders in waiting of our wee country have in store for us. The consensus that has been constructed by the reigning political class and their friends in the corporate media represents a moral and discursive noose for anyone else who wants to play the bankrupt games of orthodox politics. Both Fine Gael and Labour either lack the wit to notice this or the imagination to do anything other than offer up their pretty white necks. Hence it is that they sign up to the insanity of fiscal cuts in a time of recession. And hence it is that they promise to slash tens of thousands of jobs in the public sector, with all the deflationary effects that will entail. There are differences in the levels of the austerity they would seek to impose, but these are simply differences in the degree of venality and insanity.

But fear not. We are, after all, all in this together. Our leaders in waiting have already volunteered to oversee the destruction of the country on a smaller salary than their predecessors. According to the O’Reilly press, Enda Kenny will only ask for €200 000, while Eamon Gilmore will struggle by on ten grand less. I’ve seen valour. I’ve seen sacrifice. But this? This is just simply humbling. In fact, I’d wager that this is the first kindling of the kind of new found spirit of patriotism that will get us out of this mess. Going forward…


14.59 The second installment in what could be a very long series. Join in. It's very, very cathartic...


Guess Who’s Having a Good Recession?

Someone having a new lease of life is the financial guru Jim O’Leary. If you were the Finance Minister of a small beleaguered country beset by an unprecedented economic crisis, who would you choose as your chief adviser for the forthcoming, critical budget? Someone with impeccable credentials in terms of economic prediction? Check. Someone untarnished by association with the institutions and interests that created the mess in the first place? Check. Someone keenly aware that mistakes have been made in the past and cannot be repeated in the future? Check. Step forward, Jim O’Leary.

There can be few more inappropriate candidates for the €150 000 a year position of special adviser to Brian Lenihan. In the period between 2001 and 2008, O’Leary was a non-executive director at Allied Irish Bank. He was, in other words, in a position of influence within AIB while the bank was ripping off customers and engaging in some pretty foolhardy borrowing and lending. While he could have used his authority to counsel caution, or even legality, he chose instead to take the well-trodden path that leads towards the quiet life. This is now, apparently, a matter of ‘profound personal regret’ he claims. I’m sure, like me, you find his new found flair for humility and introspection genuinely touching.

So let me get this straight. We are facing into the most vicious and senseless budget in the history of the state. And one the architects of this response to the crisis is someone who is responsible for creating it in the first place. And for compounding the mess he will be paid by us to the tune of four times the average national wage. It is hard to think how things can get any more downright silly than that. Unless, of course, someone gives the contract for the planned refurbishment of the Old Bailey in London to the Price sisters…


14.17 For the first, and probably last, time I find myself as the bearer of glad tidings. I hope you are all sitting down for this, budgetjammers, but we are rich. Rich I tell you! This cheery message just popped into the budgetjam email account:

 Your email ID has won £1,000,000.00 GBP in the British Tobacco Xmas Splash

A million quid. One point two million euro. Ok, it’s more Roddy Molloy than Denis O’Brien territory. But in these depleted times, those seven digits are not to be sneezed at. I hope it’s ok, Gavan, but I gave them your bank account details. We budgetjammers trust you to snap up some of those wise investments in Slovakia you’ve been keeping an eye on. Early retirement beckons..


14.05 Here is Audrey responding to Gavan's 12.50 appeal to all those poor souls who are bowling alone.

I couldn’t agree more. It would be a dereliction of civic duty not to respond to Bertie’s call. The Government, after all, wants its citizenry to “act to transform the social, cultural, political and economic structures which affect their lives and others at personal, community, national and international levels." (see So let’s go out there and be dutiful, patriotic people, fulfill our “rights and responsibilities as global citizens” and realize the “potential to effect change for a more just and equal world.”


13.47  I was browsing the headlines in the local shop this lunchtime and there was one in the Herald that should have been shocking were it not entirely predictable. Apparently, Allied Irish Bank has paid out some €60 million in bonuses over the past couple of years. So here we have a bank that has been run so badly that it has seen its share price tumble to barely 30 cents and which has had to be bailed out with several thousand million euro of our money. And a handful of its senior executives are still being rewarded for this pitiful performance with seven digit bonuses. Another timely reminder, if further proof were needed, that we are really not all in this together.

And that thought leads me to make a suggestion. It might be an interesting exercise if over the next few days we use this space to collect stories of those who have been enabled or allowed to carry on as if the halcyon summer of the Celtic Tiger never ended. How about running a thread called something like ‘Guess Who’s Having a Good Recession?’ Here’s one to get us going.


Guess Who’s Having a Good Recession?

1. Richard Burrows is having a simply splendid recession. Burrows was the chief of Bank of Ireland during the last days of the Celtic Tiger. On his watch, the bank almost went insolvent, had to be bailed out with billions of our cash and its share price fell almost to the point of being worthless. What were the consequences of such calamity for Burrows? Unemployment? Public shame and ridicule? Police investigations into dodgy dealings and economy with the truth in the financial institution he ran? Not a bit of it. Burrows has of course migrated to a cosy sinecure in British American Tobacoo. In return for working a whole two days a week, he receives a miserly £525 000 (€625 000) per annum. Now there is man having an absolute smasher of a recession.


You get the drift. The One Per Cent Network has already done a lot of good work in this area. But it would be interesting to gather as much information as possible on those who are still enjoying the good times while the rest of the country faces into the most vicious budget in the history of the state. So please send in details on your favourite fat cat, tax dodger, corrupt politician, large public money farmer etc. Thanks.


13.10 This is Colin. I’ll be looking after the blog until around 5.00 this evening. This is probably not the most frenetic part of the news week so your contributions would be particularly appreciated. If you feel the need to vent your spleen about the slavish repetition of ideas that have no intellectual or moral worth that passes for public discourse in this part of the world, then you have most certainly come to the right place.


I have to confess that I strayed from the warm fire that is the live blog yesterday evening. Along with another, more elegantly attired, budgetjammer, I went to see the peerless and ageless Glaswegian popsters Belle and Sebastian. One of the gigs of this or any other year. At one point, lead guitarist Stevie Jackson was trying to breathe a little life into the sumptuous but eerily staid environ that is the new Grand Canal Theatre. In his efforts to introduce a little audience participation into proceedings, Jackson exalted the notoriously bashful B&S fans with a phrase that got this whole venture going in the first place: ‘We’re All in This Together!’. Is there nowhere safe from this catchphrase? It has become the ‘Shut That Door’ of recessionary times. You expect to hear it incanted by the intellectually bankrupt politicians and hacks of post Celtic Tiger Ireland. But it came as a surprise to hear the phrase slip so easily from the tongue of a purveyor of pristine and fey retro indie pop. I guess that’s why they call it hegemony