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Broadband and the Banks

Posted on: June 25th, 2008 1 Comment

I again raised the issue of broadband in the Seanad today. A leaked document appeared in the Irish Times yesterday (June 24th) regarding the government’s “Next Generation” broadband strategy which is to be published on July 3rd. I told the Seanad that, while being a highly aspirational document, this was essentially all that it was- empty words when we need immediate action.

At the same time, I also highlighted the deplorable situation regarding the damage that banks have done to the Irish economy. It ought to be realised, if it has not already been, that Irish banks in particular are disgracefully run because they are run for bankers and nobody else.

The issue of how banks deal with employees was mentioned, but we should examine the extraordinary job they have done in damaging the economy in the last few years.

They are run for the board and the management. That is why they have been lending recklessly and irresponsibly to people who are now in misery. The banks set themselves extremely undemanding, short-term targets which depend on them lending to people who cannot afford to pay them back. They get their short-term performance bonuses while the debtors are unable to repay what they owe. It is a disgracefully structured system which is a particular shame here in Ireland. It is worse here than it is anywhere else that I can think of.

We should point out that this is a serious matter. The head of the UK‘s financial services authority has said that bankers’ pay is now so excessive that it is a factor which may contribute towards the destabilisation of the banks themselves. This has been echoed belatedly by our own Financial Services Authority. These people are running a bank for short-term gains for themselves. I should declare that, to my cost, I am a shareholder in the Bank of Ireland. They are the worst offenders of the lot; one person got €4 million last year. These people are running it for themselves. They are the beneficiaries while shareholders, employees and consumers are suffering.

I will finish with another matter which is relevant to the Order of Business. I still maintain that the broadband issue is not appreciated by Members of the Oireachtas. For some time, I was a voice in the wilderness on this matter but I am delighted to hear Members of this House who are now very vocal about it.

A legitimate and authoritative document was leaked to The Irish Times yesterday, stating how well the Government was doing. A very good Green Minister is involved in this. The document said the Government was proposing a paper on broadband and that it was somewhere in the Department. This was to give us the impression that something was being done about broadband. There is a consultation paper in the Department which was prepared by a forum of global people who were flown in for the day to give advice, which anybody in this House could have given years ago. It was irrelevant. There was then going to be some sort of an open day when all the vested interests could come in and bellyache, and then there was going to be a proposal. As far as I know, however, there is no Bill and no money for broadband either. There are no proposals. We should have tackled this five or six years ago.

The Deputy Leader should ask his parliamentary colleague if he is prepared to take the Bill I have placed on the Order Paper concerning broadband, if I do not push it to a vote. It contains many of the things of which he and his party approve, as well as many of the things in the leaked document, as a basis for discussion and moving this matter on. We should not just sit back and talk about it.