A Public Policy Regime Tailored To People Who Don’t Have A Vote


From top: Apple CEO Tim Cook greets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at an IDA Ireland event in the National Concert Hall last month to mark Apple’s 40 years of investment; Aidan Regan

On RTÉ’ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Gavin Jennings asked rhetorically why most people who voted in the general election, and who responded to RTÉ’s exit poll, said “they didn’t believe they benefitted from the country’s economic recovery”.

He told listeners:

“Ireland’s economy is growing richer, faster than most European countries and there are more people working than ever before.”

Dr Jennings then interviewed Associate Professor at University College Dublin’s School of Politics and International Relations Aidan Regan, who writes a column in the Business Post.

Dr Gavin Jennings: “You were writing in the Sunday Business Post, as far back as 2017 that the economic boom was setting up a political timebomb that could stoke a Brexit-style backlash. What did you mean and do you think you were right?”

Aidan Regan: “I mean, broadly speaking, yes. Perhaps not as quick as has appeared to have happened. But what’s meant by that, and of course, I don’t pick the headlines for these things…what’s meant by that is that Ireland is very dependent on one or two key sectors and in particular, and increasingly so, on the ICTC sector, let’s say big tech, right, for your listeners.”

“And that foreign direct investment and big capital for technology companies has been beneficial right? It has ultimately lifted the economy out of the recession. It has generated computer service exports and in that sense has enabled the Government in the austerity years to implement an internal adjustment without effectively crashing the entire economy.

“But, in terms of the kind of job and income growth and productivity gains that comes with that, it’s very narrowly concentrated in a very small section of the workforce.

“And those work in these high-tech, high-income sectors, or more concretely, in these firms, like think about Dublin City here where we are, Google is the biggest…”

Jennings: “Apple, Cork, yeah.”

Regan: “….biggest private employer in the city. You know, if you’re working those companies, of course you don’t feel, you don’t, there never has been a recession. There has been no austerity. But you do obviously feel the effects of under investment in public service infrastructure.

“So the point of that article and the point of that research suggested was ‘look this is not sustainable’. When you have an economy that’s so dependent on one or two key sectors, and the net gains of that increasingly are concentrated, in addition to the fact that there’s a lot of funny money floating around.

“The headline figures look a lot better than they are. It does not provide the fertile ground for political and electoral sustainability.”

Jennings: “There has been a rise in wages nationally. But it’s an uneven rise in wages.”

Regan: “Yes, I mean. So overall in the economy, and particularly in the past couple of years, overall earnings have gone up. People’s wages have improved but some people’s wages have improved by double digit figures on a year-on-year basis for a couple of years.

“When you have that type of wage growth, it obviously creates, that’s to say, puts upward pressure on the price of non-tradeables as you would say, basically housing, rent, restaurants, etc. And so therefore, if you’re earning those higher incomes, in those particular sectors, you’re in a position to, well, afford to pay the cost of living within the city that you would live in.

“But not everybody earns those types of wages.

“So whilst there has been a growth overall in our earnings and wages, it has not been equal. And, effectively, if you look at the income distribution, break it down by earnings. It doesn’t look as healthy as is often assumed.

“I mean the median wage in this country is about €36,000. Gross income, it’s stripped out. If you include earnings and non-earnings, 85 per cent of people in this country have less than €50,000. That’s not a huge amount of money to be able to afford those things in this country which are expensive, housing, health, education.”


Regan: “It’s estimated that 70 per cent of people who work in Google are non-Irish which would suggest that they don’t have a vote in the national elections. The public policy regime in Ireland is increasingly tailored to, you know, the high-tech, higher income earners and that’s understandable which would make sense in most countries, given that those same people would have a vote and they would typically support, in this case, the centre, centre-right parties.

“And that’s what you would expect. But in this country, that’s not the case because these people don’t have a vote. So it’s a very volatile growth regime. It’s a very volatile growth model that’s dependent upon not just inward investment from US multi-nationals but also the free movement of workers from the European Union.”

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23 thoughts on “A Public Policy Regime Tailored To People Who Don’t Have A Vote

  1. class wario

    They stumble across the main point and why a huge amount of people don’t feel the benefits of this supposed amazing economy and arrive at the conclusion that…maybe we should make sure these people have the vote to ensure their narrow interests are preserved! lol

    1. class wario

      and on this point, I’m not really sure all these foreign tech workers enjoy paying 1500 quid a month to live an hour+ bus ride to work either, nor to climb over homeless people en route to work once they get off. So even the basic premise that these people are dying to vote FG seems a bit flawed.

      1. 01101101 01100011

        yes Class, 100% agree

        my older bro is always getting nagged by his girlfriend (they work in the same building) to bale out and try life in her particular country of birth in Europe once he has all his industry certs nailed

        there’s interconnections/relations of all sorts so I would respectfully point out that its not as simple as that

        1. class wario

          Loads of examples of this happening to others too, I wager. Anecdotally, I was told of a friend of a friend working in Spain who was offered a gig in Google or some such place here and turned it down because he would’ve been worse off once rent and supporting his family was factored in even with the pay bump. A quick glance at the joy that is thejournal money diary shows me a tech worker touching a 6 figure wage not too enamored with the country either: https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/spending-money-diary-ireland-software-engineer-4922762-Dec2019/.

          1. 01101101 01100011


            similarities aplenty..I’d say the brother is getting groomed to replace him/her in a couple of years LOL…he’s not a coder tho, younger, less money, rent and other aspects about same, works a fair amount of weekends

            I’m gonna see if he knows who that is…one of his lot?!

      2. Barry the Hatchet

        Lol, who works in Google and travels over an hour on a bus to get to work??

        The point here is that all the commentators (and indeed FF/FG) seem to be shocked that the economy is doing really well but people still aren’t happy. Regan is saying the problem with that theory is (1) the economy is only doing well for a narrow section of society and (2) unusually, in this country, many people for whom the economy is doing well do not actually vote. Therefore the answer to why this government is being punished when the economy is booming is that their policies made it boom for the wrong people in the wrong way. His point is not that we need to make sure foreign tech workers can vote*.

        *Although personally I think people should be able to vote in national elections if they’re living here.

        1. JEH

          Precisely the point. It’s been a longtime coming too. High-paying tech jobs are overwhelmingly performed by Europeans and North Americans who are only in Dublin for a couple of years to do some combination CV building and cash in, cash out. How much of the “trickle down” growth is concentrated in Dublin’s service sector as well? Workers need to earn a certain wage to be able to routinely afford 8 euro pints, 3.50 flat whites, take-away for every meal, etc. 10 years ago these would have all been considered luxury, whereas now they’re apparently the ubiquitous. If the economy begins to turn south, these discretionary expenses are going to dry up, as too will the jobs they support.

          The government’s happy with the program because all of these people are paying high taxes, into a system they’ll never draw from. The property owners are also benefiting from the high rents which in turn are the ones propping up right and center-right parties.

          I’m not surprised by the political response of voting for SF. I am surprised that there isn’t more public backlash akin to what took place in San Francisco. Especially given that Dublin seems to have modelled–intentionally or not–its strategic vision on San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

          1. class wario

            This is put far better than I could manage. Additionally, though, I don’t really buy that Ireland is an unqualified wonderland for these people either, they just get paid silly money to offset the rent drain and are probably on their way within a few years. So in essence I think it’s quite naive to think these people want to vote FG, would vote in the first place and aren’t affected by our various crises in ways other than rent drain.

          2. Otis Blue

            All true and Regan’s analysis is quite perceptive. As an economy we’re really in thrall to – and uniquely exposed to – MNC tax planning and employee/skills mobility and transience.

            Irrespective of which parties form the next Government (and everything that goes with that), my own sense is that quite a few storm clouds are gathering, each of which are likely to have negative effects in and of themselves but more worryingly, could have a devastating cumulative effect. I’m not sure how much resilience we’ve built in and this has been a particular failure of Government.

        2. Salmon Eile

          Bang on. The top penthouse apartment over Grand Canal Docks is rented to a Googler at 17K per month.

          Can I presume he/she has to bring the free food home in the evening?

    1. class wario

      they won’t be allowed vote. you must present your unique Apple Worker ID and proof of earnings to be deemed a Good Foreigner and allowed to vote in the first place

    2. Brother Barnabas

      maybe but more than 96% are workshy scroungers who leave their homes, friends, families to come here to gorge on the free weekly handout of THIRTY EIGHT EUROS – CASH in hand. why would they want to work when they’re given a free bed in a dormitory with strangers and a fistfull of hard cash? we’re being taken for a ride in a hand cart.

      1. 01101101 01100011


        (although it would buy you a couple of decent burgers and a salty caramel shake in 5guys for that gorgey cholesterol fest)

        1. italia'90

          My daughter pestered me to bring her to 5 Guys for weeks after it opened
          So being the Ioving and generous father, I brought her for a treat
          She hasn’t asked to go back, and who couId bIame her in aII honesty?

          You’re one of our newest and youngest commenters here at Broadsheet Manor, so I just wanted to say WeIcome aboard as it’s refreshing to hear a pov from a newbie who isn’t an obvious sock puppet from Ógra Shinn Féin, Ógra FF or YFG!

          Btw, are you from House CapuIet or House Montague? ;)

          1. 01101101 01100011

            hm, to be fair I may have dodged a bullet on that one, we got Othello…so maybe I see myself as a bit like him (but without too many of the flaws hopefully, lol!!)
            maybe Measure for Measure would have set me up for all this nonsense a bit better, eh?

          2. Dav

            Did she get the 10 euro burger that, based on its size and lack 9f fresh ingredients, looked like it was flown in from the USA?

          3. italia'90

            We’re aII fIawed actors, suffering the same paradox of the human condition, hurtling through space and time clinging to a rock in a universe that regularly mocks us for our anthropocentrism.

            Even reading The Prince and The Art of War couldn’t prepare you for this nonsense.

            If you haven’t read Steve Krug yet, as an IT student, be sure to.
            It was the best advice I was given by an Irishman who was brought in to rescue IT projects Iike EuroDisney, BBC and the British Foreign Office that became IT nightmares, to name just a few.

          4. 01101101 01100011

            Hi italia

            had to use my favourite search engine, never heard of that term before. whoa! careful I’ll get distracted and I have a pile of work to get thru, time is my nemesis :) all very fine and well bending processors to my will but I haven’t yet figured out bending time. but yes, I’ll have to have a look at the more philosophical matters. the one thing I’d say about myself would be that I have a healthy suspicion of dogma in any shape or form, that was a problem for some family members at one point but they got over it.
            Krug is on the list for sure, tho I wouldn’t be into client/web admin stuff UX is very relevant to AI and an interesting area….would you trust a fully autopiloted car with your life? when is it your fault or the machines? would your insurance company pay out? hm? :)

  2. Salmon Eile

    Will Apple be switching production to Cork from China because of the CoronaVirus so?

    Will they fupp…

    1. Dav

      They don’t Make anything in Cork, they assemble, and you can’t assemble anything without the made in China components, I expect apple might go on a shortened week, soon enough

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