Trade unionist David Begg ‘thanked god’ that he wasn’t part of the regulatory authority of the Central Bank

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In an extraordinary admission, David Begg, the leader of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)  has said that he now ‘thanked God’ – for his own sake – that he wasn’t actually part of the regulatory authority set up by the Central Bank to monitor the banks misbehaviour.

The veteran trade unionist, who was on the board of the Central Bank during the Celtic Tiger years, has long had to defend himself against charges that he did nothing to help the Central Bank to control the behaviour of the banks, not least the antics of Anglo Irish Bank. Speaking to presenter Sean O’Rourke on RTE radio’s News at One last week, Begg distinguished between being on the board of the bank and being on the regulatory authority set up by the board in 2000. At the time of the latter’s creation Begg said that he was one of only three members of the central bank board not also appointed to the regulatory authority. He said he ‘kind of felt bad about it at the time’ because he thought that ‘the authorities at the time were saying we’re not going to let this guy within the citadel of capitalism, but thank god, for me, it turned out for the best that I wasn’t.’ To Sean O’Rourke’s clear amazement, Begg expressed relief that he thus ‘had no hand act, or part’ in whatever went on. Asked did he not feel that he ‘should have had some hand, act or part in the averting the calamity’, Begg said that ‘it wasn’t his call’ and ‘that was it.’

Last week, Begg condemned the ‘boorish and cynical comments’ made by Anglo Irish bankers on the tapes revealed by the Irish Independent.

Interestingly, David Begg was himself the focus of a political storm last year when Minister Joan Burton called for union chiefs’ salaries to be made public. Mr Begg refused to reveal if he had taken a cut to his €137,400 salary – even though hundreds of thousands of members, particularly in the private sector, have had to endure serious reductions in their income.  On top of his salary, Mr Begg is also a member of the union’s defined benefit pension scheme and in 2009, he disclosed he had a “company car” from the union. In the same year, he received €32,000 for sitting on the board of Aer Lingus, which went to ICTU. He also sits on the National Economic and Social Council and is a governor of the Irish Times trust, for which he received €10,060 in 2009. In 2010, Begg and his fellow ICTU leader, Jack O’Connor, were loudly booed when they tried to address the crowd at a mass rally in O’Connell Street, held to protest against the Government’s economic policies. He must ‘thank god’ he’s not a Government Minister.

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