Eamonn Kelly: Free Money Talks, Bullshit Walks


From top: Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty,  Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Minister for Buisness, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphries; Eamonn Kelly

Leo Varadkar told Newstalk the other day that nearly 40% of Covid-19 payees are better off than when they were working. That is so interesting, given that the Covid-19 payment of €350 was arrived at as being just about enough to live on.

Almost 600,000 people are receiving the Covid-19 payment. 40% of 600,000 is around 240,000. Dare we ask do these include the jobs created by Fine Gael, jobs that don’t pay people enough to live on?

Jobs for All

Job creation is a big plank of Fine Gael boasts. And though the manner in which figures are arrived at is notoriously slippery, Heather Humphries did claim in Dáil questions in March 2019 that 49,900 jobs were created in 2018.

The overall boast is that by 2020 Fine Gael hoped to hit a target of 200,000 jobs created since the launch of the first action plan for jobs in 2012. By 2016 it was a regular claim that 135,000 new jobs had been created since 2012.

But if 240,000 people are now saying that they are better off on the Covid-19 payment than they were at work, and Minister Docherty is saying that less than €350 is not enough to live on, what standard of job has Fine Gael been creating all this time?

If people are working for less than enough to live on, can such an occupation properly be counted as a job?

What the taoiseach’s own words seem to suggest is that the concept of a “job”, as argued by many advocates of basic income, is an outdated fetish favoured by right-wingers who still can’t get beyond the idea of ordinary people being supported with some form of regular basic income, without pain being imposed upon them.

Bullshit Jobs

The anthropologist David Graeber realised that the consequence of this right-wing jobs fetish was the steady and ongoing creation of what he termed “bullshit” jobs. Jobs whose only value was in the existence of the job itself, as perceived by a system that valued the possession of a job.

What the Covid-19 payment demonstrates, is the real face of this entire bullshit jobs cycle that Fine Gael have been busying themselves with all these years to no real benefit to anyone apart from their own statisticians and their employer friends availing of job-creation grants.

And to those who say that there was a surplus created by Fine Gael in government, have a look at where that surplus was drawn from in the frozen lives of the 10,000+ homeless, among other less inspiring stats created by Fine Gael policy.

And that figure of €350 for the Covid-19 payment. How was it arrived at? Was it in any way influenced by the fact that the minister who proposed it had just lost her seat in the general election? Might it have been a tactical act of generosity that might be remembered by the electorate in the event of another quick election, given the hung Dáil?

Free Money

One of the main oppositions to the concept of a universal basic income is that it is free money.

But as Leo Varadkar pointed out last week, not for the first time, there is no such thing as free money. Though Varadkar himself and his cronies appear to live in a world swimming in free money.

In August 2019 the Sunday Independent reported that the new taoiseach…

“…has clocked up a €400,000 bill for food, drink and entertainment since he took office two years ago…”

The report went on

“Mr Varadkar also treats his Cabinet ministers to evening suppers in Farmleigh House, the State’s formal residence, and in the National Gallery of Ireland…Last September, ministers gathered in Farmleigh House, for an evening of dinner and drinks at a cost of €2,075.

In December 2017, the Taoiseach hosted a Christmas dinner for his ministerial team in the National Gallery of Ireland beside Leinster House which cost €2,102.”

With his €185,350 basic salary plus his €118,981 in personal annual expenses, there is clearly no such thing as a free taoiseach either.

In January 2020 The Irish Post revealed that…

“…Leo Varadkar reportedly spent €1.8 million on propaganda during his first year-and-a-half as Taoiseach.

This included €50,000 on videos featuring Varadkar which were designed to hopefully go viral and make the world say, Wow, Leo is cool.

This is in stark contrast to the €16,000 spent by Enda Kenny in his first 18-months in office.”

As Brendan Howlin pointed out at the time:

“Leo Varadkar’s spin unit spent well over 100 times more on PR than Enda Kenny did.”

Howlin went on to say that Fine Gael spent…

“…€7million of public money on glossy advertisements in 2018…They will spend nearly €2billion on the National Children’s Hospital, which will be the most expensive hospital ever built on earth…

Fine Gael gave €700million in 2018 to private landlords because they refused to build homes on public land…They spent €900,000 every day on private agency staff, because they refused to employ permanent public workers.”

Who Pays These Bills?

Where is all that money coming from? Well, it’s coming, in a roundabout way, from all those workers, 240,000 of them, according to Mr Varadkar’s own stats, who are working for less than enough to live on.

It is coming from the poor and the homeless and the pensioners and the tax-payers and the health service and the farmers and the arts workers.

Because Varadkar is right. There is no such thing as free money. It has to come from somewhere, including the free money that he flings around the place to make himself look good, paid for by ordinary people in reduced wages, reduced medical outcomes, reduced life chances and reduced equality of opportunity.

That free money he disposes of so generously is coming direct from the pockets and expectations of low paid workers who, by the admission of his own minsters, are working below the rate of what they need to live on in Varadkar’s Ireland.

The caretaker taoiseach is, for once, perfectly correct: It is not fair. But not in the way that he means.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

DISCLAIMER: Broadsheet does not condone the use of the word ‘shit’ in this article which thankfully does not include other off-colour words like ‘fuck’, ‘diddies’ or ‘wankipants’.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet


34 thoughts on “Eamonn Kelly: Free Money Talks, Bullshit Walks

  1. Cian

    You are making 2 huge assumptions that your article relies on:
    1. that there were no badly paid jobs before 2012; and all the new jobs created in the last few years are badly paid.
    2. all the “40% of Covid-19 payees are better off than when they were working” were working fulltime. Some people were (voluntarily) working part-time.
    Anecdotal, but a number of my extended family were working part-time (they are in college) and are better off on the COVID payment. Another kept her part-time job even though she is worst off for it.

    1. Catherine

      Exactly! No allowance was made for part time workers in setting up this scheme. Lots of people work one or two days a week where they wouldn’t earn €350pw even on a reasonable hourly rate. The vast majority of third level students were working part time in businesses which had to shut. Flat rate of €350 paid to all. It was set up in a hurry, presumably there was no easy way to take part timers into account.

      1. Clampers Outside

        +1 Cian and Catherine.

        Eamonn has based the entire piece by doing exactly what he accuses those mentioned in it of doing.
        That being making broad sweeping claims about the figures of jobs and pay…. Pffft!


    2. GiggidyGoo

      Coming down the line, I reckon, will be the realization by the multinational ‘IT’ companies that people working from home has worked for them. That then means that ultra large offices are not required. In turn that means that some employees (a lot perhaps) may be offered the ‘work from home’ alternative, which in turn allows those employees to secure cheaper accommodation outside of cities. That in turn means that more city accommodation will become available.

      What it also means though is that, because these companies may no longer require as many personnel on site, they also won’t need them physically in the country. Such employees would then be classed as taxpayers in their country of residence?

      The nameplate though would remain in Ireland.

      1. Who am I now

        I don’t think it’s that easy Giggidy.
        First tax residency is where you’re ordinarily resident.
        You may have a point of course if air travel opens up again full throttle.

        In the end though I don’t feel working from home is as efficient in some respects.

  2. Dav

    Thanks Eamon for this, Newstalk was driving the mantra all week that people on the covid payment were wasters and didn’t deserve it, the above comments confirm this is the spin fg want to maintain.

    1. Who am I now

      Totally Dav. I’ve reached the conclusion they actually hate people on that station. Hateful drivel.

  3. Ringsend Incinerator

    If you want to talk about “welfare” let’s include corporate welfare – Irish banks, Google, Facebook, etc…

    1. GiggidyGoo

      An exercise should be done as regards the likes of Google, EBay, Paypal, Facebook etc. laying out
      a) The level of Grants paid yearly and for what. R&D is a great one, but there are also grants towards buildings, training, etc.etc.
      b) The level of Income Tax + PRSI that is paid back to the exchequer
      c) How many employees PRSI is re-imbursed to those businesses (Jobsplus – €7500 kickback in some cases)
      d) Costs of infrastructure to support travel to/from the offices etc.
      e) Oh yeah – and Corporation tax receipts.


      1. Ringsend Incinerator

        + And the level of remittances sent out of the state by their employees.

        1. GiggidyGoo

          Corporation tax is paid by most Companies The levels/amounts though need to be examined. I see the report mentions 10 firms. But doesn’t name them.
          But you didn’t ‘leave’ anything about the grants etc. they receive though.

        2. V'ness

          Ah now C.i.aint

          look what you’ve gone and done↓

          if 7% = € 4,000,000,000 then ↵
          1% is € 571,428,571 (coming up on 571 and half Million)
          giving the balancing 93% a value of €53.142,857,44, and 80 cents ( just over 53 Billion)

          in which circa 70% is accepted to be generated from the SME sector (30 yoyos under 40 Billion of them btw – if using your numbers)

          Not the mega FDI scavangers and hawks.

          Therefore again proving the need for there to be a dedicated Government Department and Senior Minister for the SME sector

          Just saying;
          A bitta love for the rest of us wouldn’t go amiss
          Especially those of us that don’t enjoy any Political Patronage, and have had to make do on our own herewith-all and wits.
          53 Billion @70% is 37.2 billion btw

          As for the Covid payment, while it helps out most people in receipt of it, which is only a good thing afaic
          It takes no account of the losses many of us in that 70% will never get a chance to recoup
          or the opportunities lost that would secure our businesses, or help them grow and thrive

          Maybe everyone on all sides of this argument or Leo’s views could consider that for bit
          Instead of giving their need to get their rocks off, or their comply with their default positions to defend deny detract or distract

          1. V'ness

            oopps a daisy

            didn’t get back in under the edit time clock to remove an error
            please scratch 53 Billion @70% is 37.2 billion btw

          2. Cian

            Corporate Tax was €10.4bn
            Top 10 companies was €4 billion; the remaining companies were €6.4bn.

            If, as you say, 70% is SME, that is 70% of the €10.7bn (or should it be 70% of the €6.4?).. which is a max of €7.1bn

          3. Cian

            I’m confusing myself now
            What is that 70% figure v?
            According to Revenue 10 companies produced 40% of the Corporation Tax – that only leaves 60% for the other 249,990 companies.

      2. A Person

        Go on enlighten us, with your amazing economic mind?

        What grants are paid for building, training etc.?
        Under what scheme are employees PRSI is re-imbursed to “those businesses”?
        Under what scheme is cost of infrastructure to support travel to/from the offices etc?

        Do you believe that there should be no multi- nationals employing people. Are you a believer in the Dev theory of exclusion-ism.

        I am really surprised that a trot like you cannot understand that people working is better for the country, the economy, mental health etc. No – is doesn’t fit you political scenario at the moment.

        1. GiggidyGoo

          Ah the A-Thingy rears his head above the parapet. Now, why do you think I suggested that an exercise be done eh?
          To re-iterate A-Thingy:

          – You have nothing to offer to discussions
          – You can’t think for yourself
          – Your posts are incoherent usually. You find it difficult to string a sentence together

          Your only source of comfort is to attack posters here. Never mind, the weekend’s here so enjoy it.

          1. A Person

            Good man, can’t answer a question as per usual. I have accused you in the past of attacking posters on here – and surprise you attack me!!!! And I am supposed to be incoherent one. At least be original.

            What part of my comment was incoherent?

            And go on, answer the questions above. Grow a pair instead of being a parrot (I await “you’re a parrot” throw back to everyone on here who disagrees with you).

          2. GiggidyGoo

            Go to bed sweetie. Come back when you’ve grown up. Try to understand what’s written before you start attacking.
            As mentioned a few weeks ago, you’re a busted flush. unable to think for yourself and plain thick.

          3. GiggidyGoo

            Beddy bye byes. Try a new approach tomorrow. (A good place to start would be to understand what’s written, and then discuss the subject matter in a grown-up way)
            If that’s too difficult for you, well, toddle along. Enough of your childish drivel.

          4. Rob_G

            This is typical Giggidy:

            – makes fanciful claim hinting at some vague, nefarious conspiracy;
            – asked for specifics;
            – can’t point to single actual incidence to support what he has just alleged

          5. GiggidyGoo

            Rob – have a look st my original post. What have I alleged?. I’ve written that an exercise should be done. Don’t tell me you’ve stooped to the intelligence level of A-Thingy.

          6. Rob_G

            You named a load of things that might theoretically exist – you didn’t provide any actual examples of actual MNCs receiving “corporate welfare”.

        2. GiggidyGoo

          Well, in fairness Clampers, the point of my post was that the questions should be asked….as in ‘an exercise should be done”. I’d like to know as much as the next fellow.
          As regards his other mutterings – childish and nothing to do with my post. Dev? Multi national employment?
          He can get answers to his other questions by using google.

  4. Truth in the News

    Anyone have any idea how much has been spent dining and wining various sections
    of the media since FG took the reins of power

  5. johnny

    350 x 240,000 = 84,000,000

    77,000,000 is the amount of the now worthless Digicel bonds purchased by irelands best and brightest at the NTMA, hand picked by FG, in its last annual report via some bizarre dodgy FG scheme to prop up Dennis and his bankrupt and insolvent third world telco.

    1. GiggidyGoo

      And if they had to do it all again, they would. But it’ easier now to fill the coffers with a nice Broadband sop.
      No wonder FFG don’t want SF in Government – they’d take the lid off a fair lot of dealings that the civil war parties have been involved in.

  6. diddy

    min wage €10 x 20odd hrs a week + tipsbreaking your hoop in a cafe = €350. jobs for the boys, I mean Brazilians. enjoy your rest lads, you deserve it

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