FÁS scandal - Betrayals must have consequences

ANGER can be a destructive if natural response to all sorts of situations. In the last year or so far too many Irish people have had occasion, far too many occasions, to be angry.

People have been angry with bankers and politicians. Some of the more self-aware amongst us have been angry with themselves; angry that they — we — were so easily seduced by the idea of borrowing money to make a guaranteed quick buck. Some are angry that the prospect of leading perfectly ordinary lives, with a job, a modest home, a small, happy family and the ability to pay for it all seems to have disappeared. We’ve been angry too that employers moved profitable companies to low-cost economies.

Most of all we’ve been angry when we’ve been betrayed by people who enjoyed our trust. We’re even angrier that these betrayals have had no consequences. The immoral behaviour of FÁS directors has come to epitomise all that is wrong in this country. Arrogant, deluded people, relatively minor functionaries wasting our money acting like plutocrats.

Yesterday’s disclosures to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee will provoke a new round of anger. The Committee heard that when the FÁS scandal broke former director general Mr Rody Molloy refused to resign unless he got a golden handshake.

Refused? He had that option? The disgraced executive got a pension of €111,000 a year, a tax-free lump sum of €333,732, and a taxable ex-gratia payment of €111,243.50. The capital sum on his pension amounted to about €1 million. Mr Molloy also had between €80,000 and €90,000 added to his pension package.

The news that Mr Molloy refused to resign came on the day it was revealed that details of overspending and serious breaches of procedure were “deliberately” kept from his board. The board had established that behaviour that led to the scandal had been identified at executive level but not reported to the board.

Directors said the board was “misled”.

Yet Department of Enterprise secretary general Sean Gorman felt able to sign off on Mr Molloy’s “resignation” package because a threat of litigation might delay his departure. Why was that threat not met head on? After all it is plain that Mr Molloy had presided over an indefensible regime. If ever there was a time to take a stand then surely that was it.

Mr Molloy, just as former Irish Nationwide chief Michael Fingleton did when he refused to return a €1 million bonus, called the bluff of a Government incapable of holding the line. He, and Mr Fingleton too, bet that we would blink first and it seems they are going to laugh all the way to the bailed-out bank.

The Government has hid behind all sorts of excuses for not making proportionate responses to the scandals all around us but this dodging must end. Provisions for firing offenders and withholding gratuities must be incorporated into legislation.

We can’t afford the luxury of anger much longer but unless justice is seen to be done, unless we show that we still have some sense of right and wrong, and that we do care which prevails, we will waste our time being angry about the past rather than trying to build the future.

It is deeply worrying too that the culture that felt unable to simply fire Mr Molloy or recover the bonus from Mr Fingleton is the very one entrusted with the administration of NAMA.


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