Michael Somers: believed to be paid about €750,000 a year

Staff at the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) are paid an average salary of €117,000 a year, not including their defined-benefit pensions. The chief executive of the agency, Dr Michael Somers, who is now reported to be stepping down, is believed to be paid almost €750,000 a year, although the Department of Finance and the NTMA choose not to reveal the official figure. Somers' British counterpart, Robert Stheeman, who runs the Debt Management Office (DMO), was paid the round sum of €162,000 (£145,000) last year.

Stheeman and Somers both bear a heavy responsibility for getting their countries through massive borrowing binges required because of collapsing tax revenues and escalating public sector costs. This year Somers and his team will end up raising well in excess of €20bn via bond auctions and syndications. It's a big number, but the staff at the DMO have already raised £102bn and will eventually need to raise £220bn.

Viewed against that background the pay of Somers and his colleagues cannot be justified, despite Somers undeniable longevity (he has been head of the NTMA for just short of 20 years).

Somers is likely to be an attractive board asset for any large Irish company and AIB is reported to be making an early play to add him to its board, as a way to bring more independence to its top table. Somers would be an interesting choice, seeing as he was one of the few people in Dublin financial circles who appeared to question the runaway earnings and balance sheet growth of Anglo Irish.

But has Somers been worth it from a taxpayer's perspective? In terms of the raw salary numbers, probably not. But equally, it's important to remember just how close the country came to financial implosion earlier this year.

In March the yield on Irish bonds hit the red alert territory of over 6%. Credit default swaps for Ireland, a form of bond insurance, started rising so fast that a default by Ireland, a eurozone member, was very much in the air. Raising money in that period was a capricious undertaking and it didn't get any easier in April when some bond auctions were barely successful. In an auction on 21 April the bid-cover ratio (the amount of demand for Irish debt) dropped to a dangerously low 1.1.

Somers and his team managed to navigate Ireland through those choppy waters, even though a failed auction might not necessarily have been fatal. For their work during this period, Somers and his NTMA team arguably earned their rather excessive salaries.

Not that the NTMA staff did all the heavy lifting. The implicit promise by the German authorities that they would come to the aid of struggling eurozone countries such as Ireland probably did more to help our bond auctions get away successfully than even the efforts of Somers himself.