Monday 24 October 2016

The Yates anthology: Game, set and match to the legal eagles

Published 21/11/2015 | 02:30

David Mullins on Nichols Canyon
David Mullins on Nichols Canyon

The Cabinet's capitulation to the Law Society and Bar Council is confirmed. A total of 235 amendments were conceded since Alan Shatter first published the Legal Services Regulation Bill four years ago.

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The most intense lobbying campaign to reverse radical reform succeeded in emasculating intentions to transform the legal professions from the 18th to 21st century.

George Papandreou, the former Greek prime minister, explains how countries like Ireland and Greece needed to use bailouts to ensure fiscal rectitude, and modernising reforms to improve competitiveness of peripheral eurozone economies. The best government ever was the Troika. It forced successive administrations through memorandum towards greater competition and liberalisation of the legal sector.

Go back to 2006. The Competition Authority set out 29 recommendations to re-regulate legal eagles. They wanted abolition of the King's Inns and Law Society and monopolistic control of legal education intake; the introduction of specialist conveyancers; access to barristers directly by the public (instead of through solicitors) to allow barristers to form partnerships; facilitation of barristers as employees with right of court representation; restructuring of junior counsels' fees.

Legislation to be enacted falls well short of the consumer objectives and international best practice.

The Society of Chartered Accountants isn't allowed to forbid its members to be employees; most company chief financial officers couldn't exist. Precisely the prohibition that exists on barristers as employees. Prospects of one-stop, multidisciplinary professional firms are scuppered. Entry to the law library will remain restricted.

Concessions mean that it'll still cost around €100,000 per day for a High Court sitting - making access for most prohibitively expensive - it's justice only for rich. The Legal Costs Adjudicator can't come quick enough, replacing the taxing master costs process - it's extraordinarily risky if defeated, slow, cumbersome and very costly.

The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal will replace 100pc professional self-regulation, yet the Law Society retains financial and accounting oversight of solicitors and controls its compensation fund.

Each stage of the bill was diluted. Alan Shatter was a whistleblower for his profession, having the personal capacity to act as a solicitor in court.

Ironically, he lost legislative authorship due to the Garda whistleblower and other controversies and was unable to complete his plans.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission rightly condemned compromises as a major disappointment.

No profession or sector should be allowed to thwart external oversight - this is another shameful chapter of insider influence.

FF now wasted vote?

THE prevailing Leinster House maxim is: "Whatever you say, say nuthin". All sides are keeping their powder dry in advance of the early 2016 hustings; it makes for a phoney war of dreary boredom. So, if anyone sticks their head above the parapet, they'll make headlines.

Spare some sympathy for Fianna Fáil's new director of elections, Billy Kelleher. He responded truthfully to questions about FF's Dáil seat objectives, stating that beyond 35 TDs would be a successful outcome. It's plain truth, a massive leap from the last tally of 19.

But acknowledging the party can't achieve a magic majority of 79 seats to form a government means FF must outline its ambitions for government, coalition options/preferences or opposition isolation in the 35th Dáil. They rule out sharing power with Sinn Féin and Fine Gael. Billy's public preference is further opposition.

This renders their policies redundant and the proposition of implementing anything in government as irrelevant. FF's sole remaining core value under Bertie was 'power at all costs' - the party of government. Now a wasted vote becomes apparent.

To prematurely concede willingness to coalesce with FG opens the vista of propping up the government they oppose. All options contain downside risks. They must urgently evaluate the least worst strategy. The likelihood is that no government will be formed without them.

Rollercoaster of sport

Last Sunday was disastrous for my usual heroes. The unbeaten (heretofore unbeatable) champion hurdler Faugheen's second place at Punchestown was a shocker; racecourse whispers stated he routinely dismissed stablemates at a work gallop the previous Tuesday. His defeat to Nicholas Canyon left me shocked and deflated, as an adoring fan. Douvan rocks up in Navan tomorrow.

Double disappointment ensued with the crushing Leinster defeat to Wasps. Fortress RDS is no more. The prospects of bouncing back against Bath and double champions Toulon (better squads on paper) aren't buoyant.

More worryingly, when I asked fullback Rob Kearney for Leinster's season ambitions, he replied "top four Pro 12 league play-off position" - a most modest objective, relative to their previous successes.

Ireland's Aviva victory over Bosnia provided the perfect antidote. The prospects for Euro 2016 are good: rapid team improvement with the emergence of Darren Randolph, Ciaran Clark and Jeff Hendrick; an industrious work rate and team spirit overcoming the absence of any player in a Champions League team; determination to outdo Northern Ireland; a third-place finish in any of three of six groups ensures qualification to knockout stages.

Watch out for new stars like Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Alan Judge (Brentford) and 19-year-old Jack Byrne (Man City).

In sport, one door shuts, another opens…

Irish Independent

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