Date Published: 08-May-2013
We’re not alone in the world in being utterly fixated on how much people earn – but, if we ever ran out of ways to give out about the weather, we could turn this wages debate into the only topic of national conversation.
You know the drill……the politicians are paid too much, the judges should take a massive pay cut, the bankers are vastly overpaid, we need to cut public sector wages.
And the one common connection is that we continue to come at this from entirely the wrong angle – because we’re all about cutting salaries instead of wondering how we’d get value for money.
We look at the pay slip instead of the performance because we’re not so much worried what these guys are doing to justify their salaries; we’re more interested that they don’t get above their station or that they earn a multiple of the industrial wage.
Mary Lou McDonald is the master of this populist rhetoric and she was at it again in the Dail last week, pointing out that senior bankers earn in a fortnight what a nurse earns in a year.
If she said that nurses were underpaid and undervalued, she’d be absolutely right – the truth is there isn’t enough money in Dubai to pay them what they deserve for the work that they do.
They save lives and do so with extraordinary kindness and good grace and they make a difference every single day of their lives.
But we don’t live in a world that rewards people in the way we think they should be rewarded – and your captains of industry will always earn more than those who were traditionally seen to have a vocational devotion to their job.
So, given that we cannot rework the wheel, we should perhaps look less at the wages and more at the work.
I once worked in a company which was celebrating a particularly important anniversary and the MD asked staff to gather one lunchtime so that we could hear the ‘meaningful message’ he had to deliver.
We feared the worst – some management-speak about loyalty or application or team – but our man had other ideas. He told us he’d promised us a meaningful message and he knew the only thing that really meant anything to us was money….so he gave us all a bonus.
By doing that, he wasn’t suggesting we weren’t committed to the company but merely acknowledging that people work for money. That’s how it is and always has been.
So to get back to our traditional targets for pay cuts and how we could really make savings; personally I’d pay politicians more – at least double their current wage – but I’d have around one-third of the number we have now.
And I’d have a way to appoint business leaders or experts in their field to key positions, instead of looking after someone so that he delivers an extra Dail seat in his constituency in the next election.
But in order to get the very best, we need to be competitive in the wages marketplace – and we wouldn’t get a giant of the private sector for a fraction of their current salary, in a job where they’re accountable only to shareholders instead of an entire nation.
Judges are easy targets too, but if we don’t pay them more than they can earn in handling litigation then we won’t get the brightest and the best on the bench.
The solution here is to maintain their pay, but change the method of their appointment – no longer should judges be installed by the Government of the day, because that is just another form of political patronage.
Have a separate independent appointments board so that we get the real brains on the bench as opposed to the ones who once ran for election or whose father was always a Lemass man.
It’s not so simple with the bankers because nobody in their right mind would suggest they should be paid more – at least any of those whose fingerprints were all over our financial fall.
And it was galling to see the fat cats from the Bank of Ireland sit smugly looking down on the little people last week – the shareholders who were so restrained they couldn’t ever swear openly at the people they blame for their predicament, the pensioners who have lost their little nest egg because of the greed of others who’d spend that amount of money on their summer holiday.
But again, we need to see financial experts running our banks so that they can pay back the billions they got in a bail-out from the state – and that means paying serious money.
Never mind how galling it is to pay even more money to bankers – as a pure economic argument, if you could hire someone for two million who would make you two billion, isn’t that the obvious thing to do?
Of course, if they don’t perform, that’s another matter – we can fire our politicians at election time, and while we wouldn’t want to get into a situation where judges can be removed because we don’t like their decision, there has to be a way where they are accountable for them.
But most of all, if our senior bankers don’t do the business they should be out the door faster than their pudgy feet can carry them; we should also implement that retrospectively because clearly anyone who was at the helm over the past decade isn’t fit for high office.
But let’s change the fixation from how much people earn to what people do to justify their salaries – because as it stands, we’ re just looking at this from entirely the wrong direction.
For more see this week’s Connacht Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.
Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.
She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.
Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.
Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.
When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.
Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.
And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.
All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.
“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”
That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.
For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup
Date Published: 29-Jan-2013
Athenry FC 1
Kilbarrack United 2
(After extra time)
For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.
On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.
An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.
However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.
They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.
With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.
Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.
Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.
Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.