Monday, January 16, 2012

The ‘independence’ of the Irish legal profession is a shroud for obscene costs

The legal profession has been in overdrive to defend their vested interests as the Legal Services Regulation bill is considered by the Oireachtas.  The public are repeatedly told that the independence of the profession will be undermined at the whim of any Government while taxpayers are burdened with their obscene costs.

The much-vaunted independence comes with a very high price tag.  This mornings edition of the Irish Independent reports that The Mahon Tribunal incurred expenditure of the order of €30 million on a plethora of overheads during the course of its existence since 1997.  We were told that €80,000 was spent on tea, coffee and water; €70,000 was spent on newspapers and €50,000 was spent on lunches.  The Government of the day reposed spending decisions exclusively with the sole member of the various tribunals without any procedures or oversight.  The total cost of The Mahon Tribunal is apparently in the region of €97 million.

When the Revenue Commissioners published their Headline Results for 2011 it was disturbing to read that only 88 members of the judiciary made voluntary contributions of €927,000 last year in recognition of the pension levy imposed generally on public servants under the terms of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009.

These compare to voluntary payments of €1,246,787 by 125 judges in 2010. The outcome for 2011 means that 60% of the judiciary made a voluntary payment compared to 85% in 2010 leaving other taxpayers’ to carry the inescapable Exchequer burden.

Is that how social solidarity, equity and burden-sharing are spontaneously defined in the privileged, protected and exclusive domain of jurisprudence, where not alone have judges been exceptionally well paid, but retired judges are among the recipients of the most generous pensions paid by the State?

The faster that there is a bridle put around the neck of these lawyers who seem to believe that this country is a personal goldmine to flatter them, the better.  The first step is to implement the recommendations of the Competition Authority, which were issued in 2006 and to establish the practice of competitive tendering for legal services provided to the State.

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