Competition Authority should tackle vested interests not soft targets such as the IFA offices
Published 24/05/2011 | 05:00
The Competition Authority's raid on the IFA offices is disappointing but I am not really surprised. This raid, by an arm of the State, is consistent with a widespread practice of chasing the soft targets while the real monopolies and vested interests doing harm to the economy and individuals get the light touch regulation.
I believe that the Competition Authority's approach and behaviour is mirrored by the Food Safety Authority, the Health and Safety Authority, the gardai and maybe even the Revenue Commission. Farmers, small businesses and artisan food producers are vulnerable because of their isolation and weak individual bargaining power. Banks, large corporations, even trade unions with their powerful allies are seen to operate under a different code of governance.
This chasing of soft targets rather than tackling powerful vested interests is causing huge anger and frustration among the law abiding public. It is also the major factor delaying economic recovery.
Of all the ills that afflict the Irish populace in May 2011, an allegation by a retailer that farmers were trying to get a livelihood from producing milk, must be a long way down the queue. Indeed, when I heard of the raid, I wondered if it was connected with the queen's visit and that maybe there was a republican splinter group among farmers.
I'm sure that President John Bryan must be in a dilemma in the face of the accusation of price fixing. If the IFA is found guilty, at least it stands accused of doing a good job for its members. If found not guilty, can the opposite be assumed?
Were it not so serious and the fact that taxpayers' money is involved, the raid would be a joke.
The response of the Competition Authority to the retailer allegation on milk-price fixing is in sharp contrast to its response 12 years ago when the IFA asked the same authority to look into anti-competitive practices amongst Irish beef factories. At that time, beef prices had all the appearance of a cartel in operation but the Competition Authority asked the IFA to come up with the proof. There was no concerted raid by the Competition Authority on the meat processors nor will there ever be.