Update Oct 2015: Irish Government's timidity on legal services reform
The Irish government has caved-in to the powerful vested interests of the legal professions and parked a key legal services reform in Limbo* where it is likely to remain indefinitely.
Reform of legal cartels was a key measure that was agreed to, as part of the international bailout in November 2010 and today as the Government seeks to dig itself out of a hole on water charges, which was another condition of the troika agreement, it has thrown in the towel in the face of opposition from wealthy professional groups.
The Competition Authority said in April 2012:
Live horse and you'll get grass.
Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, a High Court judge, made a ruling in June 2011 that there was a flaw in a 2009 law that impacted buy-to-let property repossessions. It took exactly two years to address it.
The Irish Times reports today that next month in the Dáil, Frances Fitzgerald, justice minister, will seek to progress the Legal Services Regulation Bill, which will break the traditional ban on solicitors and barristers working together in the same practice, but she is expected to propose that measures to allow lawyers work in one practice alongside accountants and other professionals will be sent for a formal review by a new regulator of the sector before they can go ahead.
The newspaper says: "Fitzgerald is keen for the review to assess whether any lessons can be drawn from similar measures in Australia and Britain" - keen indeed.
This is policy-making for slow-learners or more accurately jelly fish.
Don't expect a regulator to have backbone when the current political leaders have lacked ones over almost four years.
Enda Kenny mismanaged water reform while he caved-in on legal reform.
The professional bodies currently have cartel arrangements covering how work that strays into each others' patch should be done and guess who is the biggest consumer of legal services in the State?
In early 2011, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee published a report [pdf] which showed that public bodies are the largest procurers of legal services in the State with an estimated spend of anything up to €500m.
The Committee said it heard evidence to suggest that the cost of legal services in Ireland is amongst the highest in the developed world and it has been suggested that the State itself is one of the primary drivers of high legal costs. Overall, the report stated that the likely cost to the State of three public tribunals based on the pattern of costs experienced to date was estimated to be in the range of €336m to €366m.
The Committee also reported that five of the barristers working for the Mahon (Planning) and Moriarty tribunals earned in excess of €5m, with two of them earning almost €10m.
*The original Limbo remains in the ether despite the misconception that it was abolished by the Catholic Church in 2007 when there was a policy change on the status of the souls of unbaptised babies - it would have been a step too far to suggest that an entity that people believed existed, no longer exists.
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