Tag Archives: ireland

Who guards the guards?

My friend Jonathan recently referred me to Rate-your-solicitor.com. I admire the idea of this website. I believe that the legal profession have, in general, setup a system whereby clients are asked to pay exorbitant amounts for relatively straightforward tasks like conveyancing. They have also helpfully ensured that you hire both a solicitor AND a barrister to initiate or defend court proceedings. This raises costs and IMHO often delivers poor value to clients as the expensive barrister that you entrust to argue your case will be less familiar with it than your solicitor. A frankly silly and near feudal practice that we should have been grown-up enough to leave behind. We’ve diverged other aspects of our legal system from the UK model and in some cases it looks like we did it to spite ourselves. I feel this way about the so-called “subjective test” but that’s a digression.
Back to solicitors! There are many talented solicitors in the country who do a good job and give good advice. It’s the same as any professional really. Whatever my feelings about the costs of legal advice in this country, the outcome of any court case can never be reduced to a simple formula of “I paid a lot of money, felt I was in the right, therefore I should have won!” It just doesn’t work like that. Clients are people and people mis-recollect and mis-represent. Equally, you could get a judge on a bad day. If you don’t get exactly what you want it may not be the solicitor’s fault.
The problem I have with the aforementioned website is that you can clearly see that some complaints could be due to clients misunderstanding legal issues, being plain wrong or blaming the solicitor for the entire legal system. There are undoubtedly many insightful and reasonable criticisms on the site. However, when you look at the “Hall of Shame” you see some frankly unrelated political rants against particular solicitors. These devalue the basis for the site. They are so far off topic and perhaps defamatory they should NEVER have been published in my opinion. It’s amazing when people can be so unbalanced in their criticism that it makes you want to defend the legal profession 🙂
If you have a problem with a legal professional then complain to the law society. This involves formulating a complaint rather than a rant. You’d be amazed what might happen. Whatever people think they DO attempt to police their profession and will strike off or otherwise sanction a solicitor if they have acted unethically or unprofessionally. It would be nice, however, if they had to publicise the results of any case where their panel finds against the solicitor. That would perhaps cut out a lot of over-billing. If you’re not happy with the results from the Law Society then you could always go to the media.

Saving the country

Between twitter and facebook it’s difficult to find the time to update this blog. An update is due however and a full redesign will happen soon, I promise. In the meantime here’s a colletion of “5’s” I’ve posted to the the McWilliams blog where he’s developing an your ideas section.
I’ve broken the list into short term changes which need to be made immediately and longer term changes which should be implemented over 5 years to help improve the balance and robustness of our economy. This is currently our major problem as we’ve a shallow economic base relying on a few tricks such as construction (gone) and multi-national FDI. Some of my suggesitons are controversial and some are tongue-in-cheek.
Short term list

  1. Accept we’re near bankrupt.The world’s dominant lending institutions are either not lending to Ireland or are issuing very short term credit believing we’ll be bankrupt within 6 months. Therefore we’re in an emergecy situation which will affect the lives of everyone living and working here. We need to stop pretending that budget band aids can fix this. It’s patent nonsense. We need to come clean on our financial situation as some builders are currently doing and start negotiating with our bankers to restructure our debt. We’ll also have to flog some of our assets, with all serious offers considered. To aid the flogging we need to end the legislated secrecy regarding house sale prices and start auctioning off unsold houses with no reserve.
  2. Nationalise and consolidate our banking sector into a rebranded good and a nationalised bad bank. The state would maintain a significant interest in the ordinary equity of the good bank and appoint new management with assistance from some of the better members of the current management.
  3. Create an all party government, taking the better of our current TD’s. If anything good could come out of this crisis it would be an interruption in the never-ending cycle of FF led and FG led coalitions. Appoint a council of our top economists and international financial experts with, perhaps, some prominent disapora figures to create policy for the dept. of finance and run the good and bad bank.
  4. Call the ECB’s bluff. Demand a bailout from the ECB on the grounds our bankruptcy will set of a chain reaction that will implode the EMU. Greece seems to be in the same boat. Demand emergency legislation to achieve it. If/when they refuse pull out of the Eurozone and reconstitute a punt pegged against the dollar. Whatever we do, we shouldn’t vote for Lisbon unless the EMU is empowered to bail-out nations in trouble rather than take action against them for running deficits by imposing sanctions/fines. The current situation is farcical!!! Our government is telling us to vote for a treaty that copper fastens a collection of laws which are actively hindering us from dealing with this crisis. The EMU is a joke in it’s current form. If you don’t think so then read this quite reasonable opinion piece in the telegraph
  5. Create the publicly traded recovery and innovation bonds I’ve described before. In a sense this is happening in an ad-hoc manner as we’re seeing consolidation in our research sector and we’ve already had a major national bond issue. The idea of this bond is that the coupon is redeemable as cash at a particular rate of as income or corporation tax relief at a more generous rate.

Long term list (implement over 5 years).

  1. Reform our tax system. Reduce taxes on labour and employment. Eliminate employers’ PRSI. Remove all tax reliefs on property rental income, effective immediately. Don’t make this mistake again. Remove tax relief on house purchases for first time buyers. Lower stamp duty and VRT. All these taxes just contribute to individual debt and are bubble promoting. Use some of the recovery bond income to aid this transition if possible. Increase corporation tax to 15% but keep reliefs on patent income.
  2. Identify wealthy diaspora figures to repatriate using our “ireland bond”. Using these, Create a tax haven for technology investors and investment, partnering with US VC firms. As part of this create research centres which are NOT directly associated with individual academic institutions. Take the largest and leading research groups in particular areas (Biotech, Pharma, IT, Telecoms, Alternative Energy) and give each 5 years of baseline funding for all staff. Consolidate groups from different colleges. Set hard commercialisation targets to gain future funding for another 5 years. These centres should then be separated from their current academic institutions (if applicable) with no budgetary overlap. Inter-college rivalries are mucking up research in Ireland IMHO. Ensure some decentralisation in this process.
  3. Scrap the pension levy and the defined benefit (based on time-served) pension for anyone not in the scheme more than 25 years. Implement a version of the EU regulations regarding pension fund protection regardless of whether we’re in the EMU or even EU.
  4. Reform the public sector. Introduce proper performance related pay. Delegate budgetary control and reward thrift with bonuses. Currently it’s nearly impossible for many PS workers to be thrifty as they don’t control their own budgets. This is a MASSIVE PROBLEM in the health service. Sack employees who get consistently poor reviews. No more jobs for life. Give many senior civil servants early retirement and replace them with new managers on perf-related pay.
  5. Reform the political system. Reduce the number of dail seats by around 20%. Require all political donations exceeding 500 Euro to be on a publicly searchable database. Reward local government for saving money rather than punishing them by reducing budgets for the following year.

Some Extras

  • Put more effort into weeding-out social welfare abusers. Impose fines or deport foreign abusers.
  • Cap mortgage size based on a multiple of disposable income. Around 10 times.
  • Introduce legislation to force lenders to accept a percentage of a property back as part settlement for debt, at the value they accepted at loan time. This would help dissuade lenders from bubble behavior.
  • Force some jail inmates to do community service. In the US they have inmates making cadillac limousines & RV’s.I want an RV!!
  • Become the 51st state officially. Failing that join the Commonwealth 😀
  • Introduce restrictions to limit (not eliminate altogether) the number of unskilled immigrants from all countries including those in the EU
  • I’d love to ban political parties in this state but (like some other points here) it will never happen 🙂

isn’t it ironic

I read this over at Chancer Central (aka the fianna fail website).
It is the very definition of irony that after 400+ million Euro woth of tribunals which were expensed to the tax payer specfiically to investigate serious incidents of corruption in public office in which members of several parties including FF participated we get a statement like

“Declan Ganley needs to be far more open and transparent if his Libertas group are to be taken seriously as a political party, according to Timmy Dooley TD, Vice Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs.”

Sure, there’s a few grains of truth in this and Libertas aren’t doing their cause much good by being secretive but anyone who believes that FF or any of the other parties are in some fantastic position of moral authority needs their head examined.
As I’ve said before, our electoral system is fundamentally flawed. Promoting the election of too many representatives for such a small country leads to this contradiction of responsibility where TDs and Ministers make decisions for their parish rather than for their country.