Monday 29 August 2016

Banking panel's advisers should reflect society

Published 10/07/2014 | 02:30

A workman removes the Anglo Irish Bank sign from outside the bank's headquarters in St Stephens Green. Photo: Damien Eagers
A workman removes the Anglo Irish Bank sign from outside the bank's headquarters in St Stephens Green. Photo: Damien Eagers

SO now we know. The Oireachtas banking inquiry depends almost entirely on Official Ireland for advice. Of the nine people selected to help shape the committee's deliberations, eight are either existing or former public sector employees. The only exception is Megan Greene. She is an economist who works for a US advisory fund as well as being the only woman and the only foreign-based adviser.

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This is not to cast any doubt on the quality of the remaining eight members who are giving up their time voluntarily to help the committee. Each one of these eight men has served this country well. The problem is not with individuals. The problem is with the system itself.

A system that only uses advisers who are in a position to work for free effectively excludes the vast majority of people in the private sector. State employees rarely have a problem taking time off to advise the Government. The rest of the population is not so lucky.

We should not be surprised that the committee members are blind to this problem. After all, the Dail operates with a similar bias. Teachers, to take one example, can keep their posts while sitting in the Dail while the rest of us must give up a job to become a TD with all the attendant risks. Is it any wonder that the Dail has so many teachers and so few business leaders?

Those working in the private sector do not have a monopoly on wisdom. A group of advisers made up of bankers, accountants and the like would be equally unrepresentative and blind to the failings of the financial services sector.

The committee and the committee's advisers should reflect the make-up of society so that all the failings which led to the economy's collapse can be explored. Anything less is another betrayal of the vast number of people whose lives have been destroyed or damaged by the banking crisis in this country.

GPs must be transparent when it comes to fees

Enquiries to a price comparison website about private GP appointments have risen by 102pc in the past two years, according to research, and that is before the threatened introduction of Universal Health Insurance. According to new research there are widespread variations in the numbers attending GP practices across the country and the amount of money that a private patient must pay.

The number of enquiries about GP fees enquiries in Dublin was 14 times higher than Cork and the numbers enquiring online about GPs increased by 117pc in the past year alone, with demand expected to continue to rise.

What it all means is unclear at the moment, but GPs have warned that free medical care for all could usher in an era of waiting lists, which will grow longer and longer.

The other aspect of the online survey is the variation in costs in different parts of the country. Understandably Dublin is the most expensive location to visit a GP with some appointments costing €65 for a visit to a Dublin practice, compared with an estimated average price of €39 to visit a GP in Leitrim, with the town of Portumna, Co Galway, the cheapest at a cost of €30 for a visit, according to research conducted by the private healthcare search engine

While you might imagine that supply and demand would be a factor it seems that no matter what the demand, prices are higher in Dublin.

Doctors blame higher rents, wages and overheads. But it would be nice to see more transparency from the medical profession on the issue

Irish Independent

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