All citizens are equal, at least in theory, but some turn up in more Boardrooms and more TV screens than others. Peter Sutherland's Goldman Sachs outlet in Dublin has just reported profits in excess on €1 million euro per employee. Last night he was on RTÉ's After Shock.
Fintan O'Toole's writes about his use of the word 'we' in this type of interview.
“We,” he told us, “have to gird our loins to take tough decisions and see it through . . . This is where we show our mettle.”
This rallying cry might be more impressive if Sutherland had girded his own loins and shown some mettle when “we” really needed him to do so. He is one of the most distinguished Irishmen of his generation, a man of immense ability and capacity to lead. Precisely because he is idolised in the Irish business community, he had the opportunity to change the culture of Irish banking. Had he taken it, “we” would not be in the loin-girding business at the moment.
Actually, Sutherland had this opportunity twice – first when he was chairman of Allied Irish Banks from 1989 to 1993, and president of the Irish Bankers’ Federation (IBF).
Reminding us of events that emerged during his watch, O'Toole notes:
When the PAC report was published, with its damning conclusion that “eminent” bank directors did little to enforce ethical standards, Sutherland had nothing to say. Given that he was the most eminent of all, that silence was one of the reasons why the culture of Irish banking remained so lethally intact.
And Sutherland has sailed blithely onwards, indefatigably smug and unshakeably self-assured. His “we” is now more copious, stretching as it does to the whole field of global finance capitalism.
His banking endeavours were not confined to our shores, nor were they all as successful as GS - he was a director of
Royal Bank of Scotland when it engaged in the recklessness that has cost the British taxpayer at least £45 billion (€52.55 billion) so far, and sat on the remuneration committee that lavished huge bonuses on its chief executive.
Sutherland could have led by example - The Irish Times - Tue, May 11, 2010