By Red Hugh
IN 2013, or thereabouts, Per Olaf Wedin, was managing huge swathes of forest land in Sweden, some 4.3 million hectares.
His salary was pretty good, about €450,000; that included salary, pension contribution, expenses etc.
I’m sure he must have been well pleased with himself.
But had Per Olaf looked over to Ireland where Coillte’s David Gunning, whose responsibility saw him looking after a measly 445,000 hectares, I’m pretty certain he would have been running screaming to his bosses demanding a massive increase seeing his Irish counterpart was, basically, on the same salary as he was.
Before sitting down to write this column I checked out the salaries of County Managers in Ireland. It is stated the average is €143,000.
At random I looked up the salary of the Co. Manager for Cavan and, according to Google, he’s paid €132,511. Just for the record the population of Cavan is 73,000.
Here’s the kicker: did you know the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Roy, picks up at most €90,000 for his duties. The population of Spain is 47 million. Have you spotted the difference yet?
And just to fill you in some more – our Enda’s salary is €185,000, French President, Francoise Hollande is paid €179,000 while Britain’s David Cameron is on €172,000.
Is Enda worth it?
Last week the Irish Farmers’ Association went into convulsions when its members learned, apparently for the first time, that its former chief executive, Pat Smith, earned €535,000 in €2013 and around €450,00 last year.
Basically, he was paid a million for two years work.
I caught the tail end of a contributor to the ten o’clock news on UTV Ireland last Wednesday night, who summed up the feelings surrounding this matter.
He said for many the IFA had become a very right wing organisation, which was now totally out of touch with the reality of farming life for those along the west coast.
In our Ireland of 2015 we are after coming through almost eight years of austerity, pay cuts, tax increases, punitive charges, massive unemployment, mass emigration etc etc yet farmers – some of whom are subsisting on less than €20,000 a year – didn’t know there was a gravy train operating for those at the top.
No wonder there is such anger, such outrage.
But what’s happening in the IFA shouldn’t come as a shock. In this country we have a track record going back generations of paying those at the top huge salaries, multiples of what the average worker gets paid.
It was known our Taoiseach earned more than the president of the United States while consultants in our hospitals are paid considerably more than their British counterparts.
Before I finish let me share something with you – I have this theory that we in Ireland have a hang over from the days of British rule when Lord This and Lady That lived in huge country mansions while we native Irish lived in cabins and shebeens.
It’s a sort of L’Oreal – ‘Because I’m worth it’- culture. Somewhere deep in our psyche we still have this deference to those at the top of society, that we believe they are entitled to earn huge sums, that they somehow deserve it.
And we acquiesce. We don’t want to make a fuss. Might seem like bad form.
This has contributed to an Ireland of two halves – those who have got through austerity all but untouched, and then there is the 70 per cent who are struggling to get back to where they were financially and economically almost a decade ago.
These are the people who’ll be voting for parties other than the two in government in the forthcoming election.