Some humility is called for from the banking community

Today’s Order of Business focused on the continuing story of the financial situation and the news that came from Aer Lingus last night. Here’s an edited transcript of what I said:

Some humility is called for from the banking community and especially its leaders. We have all suffered from sleep deprivation in recent days given the onerous task which was before us. However, I had to rub my eyes when I heard that one of the individuals concerned made a series of demands regarding what the Government should do with universal child benefits, which he believed should be attacked, State pensions, and that medical cards for the over 70s should be abolished. This proposal comes from one of the people who were saved and whose bank was in some difficulty last week. If this person has trouble with his day job, which appeared to be the case last week, perhaps he could have a future in the entertainment industry as a comedian of some sort?

For this person to suggest to the Government that it should consider such cuts when he has been the beneficiary of such largesse, the extent of which we do not yet know, seems extraordinary.

Today the Irish Congress of Trade Unions sponsors a very important event, called the world day for decent work, which I wish to comment on briefly. Such days come and go and frequently they do not mean much, but this is important. The notion and principle of regulation have been dirty words for two decades. However, they are suddenly back in vogue in certain quarters because of the banking crisis. Aer Lingus announced today its intention to chop off whole sections of its operation, replacing reasonably well paid jobs with what inevitably will be lower paid jobs.

In those circumstances, it is timely that we should draw attention to the fact that approximately 200,000 people in this country earn less than €10 an hour. That is the reality of what an army of low paid and low skilled employees are facing. I call for a debate on unemployment but we must look to see what we are talking about in that regard. It is not just a notional issue. These are real people who face real challenges in terms of living their lives on low pay and without much hope being offered to them by the Government. We should have that debate.

Everybody is now coming around to the view held by those on these benches that regulation is something that should be examined again.