Inequality Ireland: the rich get richer

Two recent reports cast a revealing light on what’s really happening with inequality in Ireland – its getting wider.

Socialist Worker

Inequality Ireland: the rich get richer

(picture: Denis O’Brien: down to his last super-yacht. Yours to hire at €326,000 a week.)

The first was from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published on 28 February. It showed that the pay gap between men and women in Ireland is now 6.5 percentage points wider than it was in 2012, according to new figures. In 2015 Ireland had a 14.8 per cent difference in median pay between men and women. This compares to 8.3 per cent in 2012.

This is part of a global picture of course; women are paid less than men everywhere. But Ireland is doing poorly international standards, coming in below the OECD average and ranking only 25th in an international league table of female economic empowerment.

And this is despite the fact that girls and women now do better than boys and men in second and third level education so it’s NOT about ability.

In contrast to the worsening relative position of women, the Irish super-rich are doing splendidly. The Sunday Times Rich List, published 5 March, shows that the combined wealth of Ireland’s richest 300 has risen to €77 billion – an historic record, beating anything during the Celtic Tiger. And there are now 15 billionaires – also an all time record.

So now we know what Enda Kenny meant by ‘the recovery’; the super-rich have ‘recovered’ to become super super-rich.

The Rich List itself is a kind of wealth pornography full of articles gushing over the obscenely opulent. Nevertheless it does provide some insights into the lives of the 0.01%.

For example biggest rise in the last year is the €926 million increase in the fortune of the Collison brothers from Limerick who now live, not in Ireland, but in San Francisco.

In case you were wondering how they made their money, it was by setting up an online payments company called Stripe – current valuation €8.2billion – which helped companies such as Apple, Facebook and Twitter process payments more efficiently. So a real benefit to society there.

The Rich List reports ‘they are unlikely to return home anytime soon’.

Then there is the very top of the list, the Weston family (owners among much else of Brown Thomas) with ‘only’ €12.4 billion, whose matriarch Hilary Weston is a leading socialite in Canada. No gender pay gap there.

And how do they spend their money? The Rich List tells us:

“The super- rich have been splurging it big time. Ireland’s wealthiest people have been buying up the baubles of success at a ferocious rate, from spectacular mansions – both here and abroad – to superyachts, high performance cars and champion race horses. Denis O’Brien’s steamer Nero was a bargain at €40 million.”

Of particular comfort to readers of Socialist Worker will be the fact that Michael O’Leary, owner of non-union Ryanair, has joined the rank of billionaire for the first time, along with the news that U2 , up €4milion, to €645 million remain Ireland’s richest entertainers.

Rumour has it that Bono is planning to make a special plea for famine relief in the Sudan shortly, possibly alongside Donald Trump.

There is, however, one small crumb of comfort in all this: Denis O’Brien is DOWN to only €4.7 billion. He lost €44 million last year. Maybe the water charges movement spoiled his plans – wherein lies a lesson for us all. People power is what we need – along with a healthy dose of taxing the rich.

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