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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Apr 28, 2011 - 5:39 AM

Surreal Ireland: Unemployment, teachers, judges and tribunal legal fees
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Apr 27, 2011 - 6:19 AM

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Surreal Ireland: In the first of an irregular series, we look at some developments in the context of Ireland's bankrupt state or State, with the issues of unemployment, teachers, judges and tribunal legal fees in focus.

This month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned of lingering unemployment and it listed member countries where jobless rates had jumped by more than two percentage points since the crisis began. They included Ireland in second place with a rise of over 8 percentage points, the UK, Italy, Greece, Portugal, the US - - where the jobless rate has risen five percentage points - - and Spain, where the jobless rate has risen more than 12 percentage points.

"A main concern in countries most severely hit is that persistently high levels of unemployment - - and a rising share of unemployed workers facing long spells without a job - -will eventually result in widespread deterioration of human capital, discouragement and labor-market withdrawal," the OECD said. "The risk is strongest for youth and less-skilled workers who have been disproportionately affected by the rise in unemployment."

The OECD said manufacturing has rebounded but in Ireland and Spain, where there were big job losses in construction, the incidence of long-term unemployment has risen. It also highlighted concerns about the US, noting the "unusually high share of long-term unemployment" in the current labour market.

In March, 167,000 people were on the Irish Live Register for a year or more.

It was strange to note that unemployment has become a front-burner issue at the teachers' conferences, which tends to evoke a feeling as to what planet some of these people inhabited in the past 3 years when over 260,000 jobs were lost - - ignoring dependents, the equivalent of 3 full Croke Parks - - and of course the Government was warned not to tamper with the slow-motion reform aspiration plan known as the Croke Park agreement.

A Dublin principal said at a conference that up to a 1,000 teachers would be “exported like cattle” from Ireland over the next five years.

“This conference is all about jobs, jobs, jobs. If we don’t fight this there will be one teacher unemployed for every five in work in Ireland by 2016.”

Unemployment is grim but wanting both insider job creation and bubble-time costs, cannot be sustained if employment is going to increase beyond the cosy world of insiders and they don't come any bigger than the protected professions.

The Irish Independent reported on Tuesday that banks are making it harder than ever to get a mortgage by clamping down on the self-employed and contract workers securing a homeloan.

Some contract workers however, remain in clover.

The Irish Times reports today that Mr Justice John Murray met Taoiseach Enda Kenny last Thursday for what a Government spokesman said last night was a courtesy call following Kenny’s election as Taoiseach.

The spokesman confirmed that the tax treatment of judges’ pensions was among a number of issues raised by the Chief Justice during the meeting. The spokesman said that that other issues were also discussed during the meeting between the two men.

Apparently, judges are concerned about the tax implications of last year’s budget which put a limit on the on the tax-free pension lump sums available to high-earning individuals.

The budget limited tax relief was limited to pension funds worth up to €2.3m but senior public officials such as judges, hospital consultants and former taoisigh would have pensions from the State worth more than the €2.3m ceiling if they were calculated on the same basis as those in the private sector.

In 2009, the Bord Snip report highlighted the practice of granting full 40-year pensions to judges who may only be a fraction of that time on the bench.

In another report, The Irish Times says lawyers working for the Moriarty tribunal continued to make substantial amounts in fees in the period prior to the publication of its report, new figures show.

Tribunal barrister Jacqueline O’Brien SC made €54,888 in fees in the period January 24th to February 28th, the figures show. Jerry Healy SC, made €33,117 during the same period. As public sector contractors, Healy earned more than €9.5m by the end of February since 1997, while those of O’Brien made €6.8m.

The Irish Times says the figures show that in the period January 24th to February 28th, barrister Patrick Dillon-Malone earned €43,197. Dillon-Malone joined the tribunal’s legal team after former lead counsel John Coughlan SC took ill.

Barrister Marie Moriarty (no relation to the judge) earned €35,388 while her colleague Stephen McCullough earned €28,102. Solicitor Stuart Brady earned €21,763.

Mr Justice Moriarty said in a letter to the Department of the Taoiseach that he alone was making the conclusions on the award of the second mobile phone licence but the legal team was required for  proofreading drafts of the report, compiling documentary appendices, assisting in the preparation of summaries, preparing draft replies to correspondence to the tribunal, and “examining and advising the sole member [the judge] in relation to any potential infirmities in potential findings which might be susceptible to judicial review and other litigation.”

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