Martina Devlin: The depressing message from the banks is still ‘show me the money’ – they will only win back our trust when they see the real value of integrity over profits

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Martina Devlin: The depressing message from the banks is still ‘show me the money’ – they will only win back our trust when they see the real value of integrity over profits


Low levels of trust in the banks are apparent, not just because the bailout continues to rankle, but because of the way banks persist in behaving. Photo: Stock image
Low levels of trust in the banks are apparent, not just because the bailout continues to rankle, but because of the way banks persist in behaving. Photo: Stock image

Can you feel the nudge? Throats clearing, elbows knocked against ours? Bankers are saying they’ve had enough of penance and are pushing for pay caps to be removed. Up goes their wail that irreplaceable talent will be lost if they aren’t allowed to award themselves enormous salary packages.

AIB’s chief executive Bernard Byrne has just handed in his notice, hot on the heels of his chief financial officer’s resignation. We weren’t told explicitly that remuneration is the reason, but only last week the bank’s chair Richard Pym signalled restrictions on pay as a barrier to retaining senior staff. Mr Byrne’s pay and pension contribution totalled €587,000 in 2016, recompense beyond most workers’ wildest dreams.

We need to back up here. The only reason AIB and other Irish banks exist is because the people were their backstop. Taxpayers bailed out reckless institutions to the tune of €64bn and suffered from years of austerity as a result. Families and businesses were devastated. Homes and livelihoods were lost. Emigration became a safety valve.

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