In the same week that a man in Kerry wrote to the media revealing that his children are hungry because all his money goes on the mortgage, we have the unseemly spectacle of Tribunal lawyers demanding a special payment to get them over the pain of their contracts ending. And we also learn that our esteemed former Prime Minister, on top of his huge salary and his huge ministerial pension, has sucked a further €270,000 in expenses from the State since he stepped down.
During the course of the Moriarty Tribunal, one barrister, Jerry Healy, earned €9 million in fees at a rate of €2,250 per day — or at least, that’s what it should have been but for a typographical error by a civil servant, who accidentally confirmed in a letter that the daily rate would be €2,500.
Did this barrister immediately contact the Department to point out the mistake?
No. Healy, and one other colleague, John Coughlan, gratefully trousered the inadevertent 11% increase in fees. Furthermore, on legal advice, the Department continued paying the higher rate even after the mistake was discovered.
These people, it seems, having earned six, seven, eight, nine million in fees from the State, have been insisting on payments of about €30,000. For what? For stopping work, now that the Tribunal is finished.
Now, to my mind, we should not only be be asking why this mistake was allowed to stand, but also, why anyone — anyone — deserves to be paid €2,000 per day. I think we should be looking very hard at the sense of entitlement among certain professions. Was the contribution of Jerry Healy and John Coughlan so great that one week of their services was worth €25,000?
A Tribunal is not a court of law. Even if we accept that lawyers can charge such rates to private clients, I see no reason for the State to carry such a burden. Who said that a Tribunal has to be run by lawyers? Many people in many professions are trained to think logically, analytically and forensically. Why not appoint, let’s say, a professor of physics to head a tribunal? Why not employ people who routinely ask hard questions to staff it? Scientists, engineers, doctors, architects. Such a team would have an additional benefit over lawyers: they’d actually know something.
When you look at the staggering fees paid to the likes of Jerry Healy and John Coughlan, you’d have to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with the way we set up these things. The chairman of the tribunal has sole authority to appoint his staff and to agree his fees. Nobody else may interfere.
Can this be right?
After pocketing €9 million in fees, the highest-earning lawyer working for the Tribunal is demanding a consolation prize of €30,000 to ease his pain now that the money-tap has finally been turned off.
I suppose it could be worse. They could have hired Wayne Rooney.
As the old folks used to say when I was a child growing up: Much wants more.
Meanwhile, there’s Bertie Ahern, three years out of office and still bleeding us dry. Having destroyed our economy through his ineptitude and stupidity, the worst prime minister in Irish history has claimed €264,000 in expenses since May 2008, including €7,500 on phone calls. This is on top of his €150,000 pension and the TD’s salary he drew down until his party was ejected from office.
Almost none of Ahern’s expenses are connected to official duties on behalf of the State. Most of it has to do with facilitating his lucrative sideline with the Washington Speakers Bureau, netting €27,000 per speech.
Ahern has taken ten times as much as John Bruton, who claimed nothing at all for 2009.
But look. Let’s not talk about Fingers Fingleton and his watch, or his multi-million euro pension fund. Let’s not talk about the countless billions poured into the banks to save them from the incompetence, greed and in some cases criminality of their management. Let’s not talk about millionaire lawyers looking to squeeze the last drop out of their handsomely-paying gigs. Let’s not talk about corrupt political parties looking after their cronies and sinking the country they claim to serve. Let’s not talk about medical consultants demanding, and getting, twice as much as their European colleagues. Let’s not talk about those with power committing economic treason.
Instead, let’s look at people fiddling fifty or a hundred euros from the welfare. Let’s shine the searchlight at some guy on the dole who paints a house to earn an extra few shillings for a child’s birthday.
Let’s blame the dole scroungers. It worked for Margaret Thatcher and it will work for us.
What was it my poor old mother used to say? Much wants more.