Somebody backed into the old motor and made shite of all the plastic trim surrounding the reg plate.
Very annoying. Very, very irritating.
Even more irritating when I went for the NCT and they failed me due to what? Sharp edges, that’s what.
Sharp fucking edges. Nothing else was wrong with the car. Nothing at all. Nothing. It was perfect apart from a little bit of cracked plastic.
Why the fuck is that a failure in the NCT? Am I likely to be driving along at 75 mph when some hapless pedestrian gets sucked into my slipstream and hacked to pieces by the jagged edges of the broken plastic around the registration plate?
It wasn’t the only sharp-edged thing they failed me for though. The rear indicator was also cracked where some fool with a supermarket trolley banged against it. That’s a fail too.
What next – ugliness?
Sorry Sir, but your car is revolting, Somebody might get sick if they see it. Fail.
Is this the Nanny State or what? My car is dangerous because it has a little bit of broken plastic on the boot lid. What?
Anyway, this being Ireland, the tester explained how to get around the problem. Just put a bit of tape over the sharp bits and bring it back.
But it will still be broken.
True, but it won’t be sharp any more.
I stuck some duct tape on the broken bits and sure enough, it passed the re-test, which was good for me, though annoying, since I couldn’t see why it failed in the first place. But at least, as a visual, I didn’t have to give them any more money.
Now, I don’t know what you’re like, but it annoys the shit out of me to pay good money to thieving main dealers for grossly-overpriced parts. I’ve always been like that and I probably always will be. It annoys me. It annoys me especially when that part happens to be a piece of plastic that contributes not a tittle to the car’s safety or performance, and so I left it for a while, but eventually it started getting on my nerves. I didn’t like that silver duct-tape stuck all over the boot of the car, and so I finally dropped in to that well-run scrapyard, operated by those well-spoken, polite, helpful Polish lads.
I don’t miss the days when you had to explain yourself to a fat smelly lout who might or might not speak any English — and he’d be a local guy.Thankfully, all the scrapyards these days are operated by well-educated Central European people who understand exactly what you want and can communicate in good English, for a change.
I approach the counter.
Have you got this, that and the other?
I will check. One moment, please. Yes, we have. Do you want it?
And within ten minutes, a polite, well-spoken Polish lad appears with precisely the part I require.
It took me half an hour to remove the old part and fit the new one. Suddenly, the motor doesn’t look like battered any more and I didn’t have to pay a main dealer hundreds of ill-deserved notes for an over-priced replacement.
Jesus, I love scrapyards, although it’s a pity that times have changed so much. In the old days you could wander in there yourself and randomly tear useful bits off cars as they teetered three-high, swaying gently in the wind. These days, for some reason, you have to wait at a counter when you’d be more than happy to have a go yourself with a socket set, but no.
Why else? It’s the Nanny State, isn’t it? The State that isn’t happy to let people skin their knuckles in scrapyards but is quite prepared to let disabled people languish untended in their own homes to save money on home helps. Ah, but that’s for another day.
You might be familiar with Tom McFeely, the former IRA hunger-striker, who built a shit apartment block in Dublin, among other things The unfortunate occupants of that block are unable to occupy the homes they bought from McFeely because those homes are a death trap. I refer to Priory Hall, a place so dangerous the owners of the apartments had to evacuate the building, as I wrote about here.
The people who spent their life savings buying these apartments from Sinn Féin patriot Tom McFeely are now living in rented accommodation because they can’t live in the flats he sold them. Why? Because the flats this freedom fighter sold them are shit. They’re rubbish. Indeed, it seems that everything this selfless patriot put his hand to turned out to be rubbish.
Now, whatever about the unfortunate inhabitants of Tom McFeely’s shit buildings, you couldn’t expect a bona fide freedom fighter to suffer any more hardship, and that’s why his wife was asking the court for a stay on the repossession of his €10 million house. That’s right. I said ten million euros. Tom is currently living in the land of the Old Enemy and couldn’t be present in court, leaving that responsibility to Nina, Mrs McFeely.
What was the pressing reason why they should retain possession of the ten-million-euro house, according to Mrs McFeely? Simple. One of their kids is doing the Leaving Cert.
Are you staggered by the effrontery of a former Provo, at a time when children in Dolphin’s Barn can’t go to school at all because their council flats are so squalid they’re killed by asthma? I am.
Tom McFeely wants to keep his ten-million-euro house until one of his children finishes the Leaving Cert. Jesus, how could you do the Leaving if you weren’t living in a ten-million-euro mansion?
This man landed his purchasers in hell by selling them sub-standard apartments. He failed to support them when the problems with their homes emerged. And now he hides behind his children when called on to pay his bills.
What a patriot.
I’d be interested to hear what Gerry Adams has to say on this debacle. So far there has been a remarkable silence.
What’s the difference between a Catholic priest and a doctor or a lawyer?
Well, apart from the fact that a priest has no practical training in anything, the main difference today is that a priest considers himself above the law of the land when it comes to reporting child abusers. You see, if a pervert informs a psychiatrist in confidence that he is raping a child, that professional must and will inform the authorities. So will a lawyer. So will any other professional who receives information in strict confidence.
But the Association of Catholic Priests says that its members’ vows are superior to the law of the land. No matter what a child abuser reveals in confession, they will never tell the authorities, even to save a child from further abuse.
Here we go again. Canon Law versus Statute Law. The law of Rome versus the law of Ireland. As Michael McDowell acidly observed, Canon Law in this country has the same status as the rules of a golf club. No more than that.
Some people have tried to spin this story to suggest that the government has somehow named the Catholic church specifically in the proposed legislation. This is not true. What it has done is impose an obligation on every citizen, including priests, to reveal information relating to the abuse of children.
Any person who shelters, conceals or assists the actions of a child-abuser deserves to go to jail, whether priest, doctor, lawyer or anyone else.
Are you self-employed? Did you ever take on a job, do the work as agreed and then find that your customer either went missing or came up with some lame excuse for not paying you? You did a bad job. It wasn’t what he expected. You were too slow. He changed his mind. He found someone cheaper.
All those excuses are bullshit. You had a contract, you did what you were asked to do and you’re entitled to be paid. It doesn’t matter if you’re a plumber, a photographer, an architect or a bricklayer. The principles are the same.
It doesn’t matter whether the contract is oral or written. It’s still enforceable under the law, but unfortunately, too many small self-employed people don’t know their rights, so I’m going to lay down a few pointers that people might find helpful when dealing with customers who don’t want to cough up the cash. This isn’t legal advice, because I’m not a lawyer, but I do have a reasonable understanding of the legal issues involved, as well as some of the practicalities.
First and foremost, you need a contract, and it should be in writing. Do not assume , because you’re a friend of the client, or a cordial acquaintance, that he will act in good faith.
At the very minimum, your contract should define the services provided, and it should specify the price agreed and the payment terms. It should also define clearly what the customer has to do so that you can complete your work. For example, if you’re designing a website for somebody who sells footwear, you might need pictures of all the shoes he wants to sell. Those pictures must be of good quality and they must be free of copyright issues. Otherwise you can’t use them. Likewise, because you’re not an expert on shoes, you might want him to provide you with the blurb that goes with the pictures.
A particular difficulty arises when you make a contract with a client who owns a company. At law, the individual and his company are separate ‘legal persons’, and therefore you need to be certain with whom you are contracting. If the client tells you that your contract is in fact with the company, ask him to arrange for a letter of engagement or a purchase order to be issued to you from the company. The company’s stationery should set out its full company name, its business name if it uses one, and the names of the company directors must, by law, appear on the stationery.
You should, if dealing with a company, reply to the letter of engagement and place on record a retention of title clause. So, if you manufacture trainers and you get an order for 10,000 pairs of trainers from your best buddy Joe Jackson, owner of Jackson Footwear Ltd., trading as Shoeless Joe’s, you need to specify that title to the 10,000 pairs will not pass to the purchaser until payment in full has been received by you. If you fail to do this, and Shoeless Joe’s goes into receivership, liquidation or even examinership – your shoes go down the Swanee – they can be sold and the proceeds used to pay preferential creditors, which will not include you.
Once you have delivered the service or product, you are entitled to full payment, but don’t ever enter an agreement where you only get paid once the job is completed. Define payment stages. So much when we get to this stage, so much when we get to that and the balance on final delivery.
Set this all out in an email to your client and get agreement in writing.
When the job starts, keep a note of all conversations with your client, however trivial. Even if you think of him as a friend, he’s now your customer and you have a contractual relationship. It’s amazing how quickly a cordial relationship can deteriorate when money is at issue. You don’t have to be officious and legalistic about it, but you should send little routine emails every time you discuss even the smallest details of the job.
Hi, Fred. Really enjoyed the few drinks last night. We can add in those new pages you asked for, but it will take an extra two days work. Let me know if you still want me to go ahead with the extra work. Also, while I think of it, we’ll need those pictures of the shoes this week or or the job will be delayed. Get on it, will you? Thanks. See you in Mac’s for a pint on Friday.
That won’t offend anyone. If there are pictures involved, the date they were taken can sometimes be an issue. Again, without giving offence, let’s say the shoe pictures turn out to be rubbish and you have to go to the shop, or send a photographer to take some shots there, you should first agree that this is extra work, brought about because the customer didn’t deliver what he agreed to.
Hi Fred. Those pictures aren’t really up to scratch, and as far as I can see, they’re copied from the manufacturer’s website. Do you have an explicit release from the company permitting the use of their images? If not, you’ll have to get new pictures taken, but obviously, there will be a cost associated with that. Let me know what you want to do. I can take the pictures or you can hire another guy to do it. Whichever you prefer. However, we need the pictures this week or the job will be delayed.
Hint. It might happen that your client later claims the pictures were taken on one date, when in fact you know they were taken on a different date. Leave no room for doubt on this. Email copies to him.
Hi Fred. Here are some thumbnails of the pictures we took today at your shop.
Even if your client later claims he never received the emails (and this does happen) you have proof you sent them, and more importantly, you have evidence that you were working diligently on the job.
Ideally, you should keep in mind when exchanging emails with your client that one day, they might have to be read out in court. So, absolutely no profanities and a minimum of irrelevancies.
Contemporaneous notes are extremely important. Confirm every change, however minor, to your client by email. A client with integrity will take this as a sign of your professionalism. A client who objects is one you should not be working for. I can’t emphasise enough how important contemporaneous notes are, because you might well end up in court, and I know this is where many people recoil. This in fact is why so many self-employed people go unpaid. They’re afraid to hit the nuclear button and sue, but they shouldn’t be. If you have done all the things I described here, you need have no fear of going to court.
You will win. What’s more, the other guy will end up paying your fees, your lawyer’s fees, your expert’s fees, his own lawyer’s fees and the costs of any expert he happened to bring. You should not gloat about this in public too much. A little will be fine.
A customer who reneges on a deal will very often look shifty and dishonest in the witness box. He’ll mutter, he’ll stumble and he’ll put his hand in front of his mouth, unconsciously trying to stop the lies he’s telling. He may well invent incidents that never happened, such as a fictitious altercation, but provided you maintain a constant stream of friendly emails, this sort of problem can be avoided at source. In any case, judges are skilled at spotting untruthful witnesses by their demeanour and body language. If you have your records straight, you need have no fear, and if the other guy is telling porkies, he will be exposed. I’ve seen cases where a judge went though people’s evidence line by line and rejected every sentence. Sometimes, it surprises me that such witnesses are not arrested for perjury.
In a similar vein, keep careful note of your phone records. Some customers will claim that they never heard from you for months, and phone records can be useful in challenging such statements.
It may happen that you need to bring in an expert witness. If you do, make sure to employ a person who is firstly a genuine expert and secondly, independent. A witness with no axe to grind carries great weight in a court of law, especially when up against a witness for the other side who might be in some way related to the defendant, or who might have been employed by them.
For instance, let’s say Fred hired me to fit a bathroom, but fired me because he could get his cousin to do it for less money. I hire a plumber I don’t know from Adam, and he gives evidence about my work. His word will carry far more weight than that of the guy who did the job after I got the sack. Why? Because he has no vested interest in the case. No axe to grind. He is an honest broker and the court will treat him as such.
Hire independent experts and pay them. Don’t try to DIY it.
Don’t be afraid to go to court. If anyone tries to stiff you on a deal, sue their ass.
[NOTE: This is one of those posts that evolve organically. If anyone makes a useful suggestion, I’ll incorporate it without flagging the change.]
I wrote last week about Claire Nolan, a convicted drug dealer, who was found guilty of deliberately crushing a man to death with her car. Today, Claire Nolan was sentenced to six years in jail for ending this man’s life, which is coincidentally the same amount of time Paul Begley received for avoiding tax on the garlic he imported from China.
Comparisons are inevitable, with people asking, understandably, if smuggling garlic is a crime as serious as deliberately taking another person’s life, but I think the two cases raise a more fundamental question, and it’s this. Is a term in prison the best we can come up with when punishing crimes? Imprisonment is such a blunt, unrefined instrument that it inevitably invites odious comparisons like that between Nolan and Begley, but it’s a mistake to use such a crude measure as duration of sentence to draw conclusions.
Requiring a judge to boil everything down to one single number is simply insane. It’s like holding up score cards at an evil ballroom dancing competition but that’s pretty much what the judiciary are expected to do, and ultimately, the number they pronounce is meaningless, because for the most part, prison is meaningless, dehumanising and counter-productive. The people who should be kept away from society — dangerous criminals — just get worse behind bars. They mix with their own kind, they build relationships with their own kind, and when they get out, they’re straight back into the activities that put them behind bars.
What’s more, prison isn’t a deterrent for these people. I recently had to go to a Garda station to pay a parking fine I had unfortunately overlooked. I didn’t want to pay it, but the letter was quite insistent. Pay this or go to jail, you bastard!
Three separate Gardai in the station surprised me by apologising. One even said It’s only the decent people who pay these fines. The rest of them go to jail for a couple of hours and then they’re out.
I paid the fine because, as a lawyer friend put it to me, That place isn’t for civilians.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have prisons. I think we need prisons to keep dangerous people off our streets, and I think that includes the likes of Claire Nolan, a violent and unpredictable criminal, who took a man’s life and then torched the weapon, a car, in a deliberate attempt to destroy the evidence. On the other hand, I also think Paul Begley is a criminal, but as has been pointed out, he was paying off his debt to the Revenue at the rate of €33,000 per month and therefore, the case against him appears not only to be vindictive but also contrary to common sense. As a result of his jailing, the State won’t receive the remainder of his repayments, but it will be put to the very great expense of securely housing a man who is no threat to anyone walking the streets.
If we had a proper restorative justice system in this country, instead of the Victorian, knee-jerk impulse to jail people, we might have a much less dysfunctional society. After all, incarceration is the very thing that gave us our current crop of violent criminal families, and when I say incarceration, I’m not talking about the state-run prison system. I’m referring to the abduction and imprisonment of thousands of young boys in industrial schools, where they learned about degradation, violence, humiliation, dehumanisation, sexual abuse and resentment. Scratch the surface of any Irish crime gang and you’ll find grandfathers who were locked up by the Christian Brothers, beaten and abused for the crime of being poor. Scratch the surface of any neighbourhood you consider threatening or dangerous and you’ll find the same thing.
Prison alone is not enough. Our judges are asked to ponder complex issues and reduce them to a meaningless scalar quantity, but worryingly, many of them justify this nonsense with inflated talk of calibrating their sentences when in reality they’re just thinking of a number. I wonder how many of our judges would be up to the task if a government decided to do something about this blunt instrument and introduced a range of sanctions including punishments designed to reflect the loss inflicted on the victims? Not quite an eye for an eye. Perhaps more a loss for a loss but with the hope of becoming better.
We can’t go on running a prison system that offers no hope of producing anything but embittered, ignorant, uneducated, dehumanised and resentful recidivists. If this is the best we can manage, we’re not very good, are we? This is not something for judges to deal with. This is a job for the legislators we elect, but unfortunately, our country is gripped in the stranglehold of the most pernicious whip system in all of Europe, so I wouldn’t hold out much hope.
We all laughed when we heard that the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything was 42.
What’s the difference between that and saying that Garlic Smuggling equals 6, or Killing by Car equals 8 minus 2?
I don’t know if Galway solicitor Patrick M Keane is the same Paddy Keane I used to know years ago, but if he is, he hasn’t lost his black sense of humour. I could tell you stories about Paddy’s exploits as a student that would put the hair standing up on your head, but of course, my lips are sealed. What goes on tour stays on tour, as they say.
I always liked Paddy. In our student days, he educated me about such abstruse concepts as the incorporeal hereditaments, something that often came in useful later in life when confronted with ravening drunks at a taxi rank. He told me what a tort was, and he informed me about Lord Denning’s frolics. He was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and never less than great company.
What’s more, he always had a skewed take on life, which I greatly enjoyed, but he really has excelled himself with the latest caper.
Paddy is a solicitor, and a damn good one by all accounts, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. He was always a bright sort of fellow, but to the best of my knowledge, he never studied anything but law, apart from his primary degree which was in some Arts thing. He certainly never became a counsellor, and for my authority here, I rely on Mr Justice Nicky Kearns of the High Court, who said as much when rejecting Paddy’s claim of €14,000 for 70 hours of what he called suicide abatement.
The background is this. A seven-year-old boy was hit by an uninsured car, with consequent physical and mental trauma. He was badly broken up in body and mind. The victim sued the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which handles claims against uninsured drivers, and eventually, in 2009, the parties settled for €800,000 plus costs. Paddy claimed €406,069 in fees, which presumably included barristers’ costs, expert witnesses, doctors’ bills, travelling expenses, photocopying and all the rest of it. But it also included a most unusual item, headed suicide abatement phone calls, which Paddy estimated at 70 hours, for which he charged €200 per hour. Reading between the lines, it seems that the unfortunate victim spent long hours on the phone to Paddy talking about his despairing feelings and Paddy in turn was only too willing to listen, at three times the rate that a professionally-qualified counsellor would charge.
The defendants referred the costs to the taxing master, James Flynn, who reduced them to €324,000. Still not satisfied, the defendants referred the matter to the High Court where Mr Justice Kearns said that Paddy should never have made the claim in the first place since solicitors are not qualified to counsel anyone. He went on to say that Mr Flynn didn’t analyse the costs properly and should never have allowed them. Interestingly, Flynn is a former solicitor, while Kearns is a former barrister.
Now let me ask you this. If you were feeling suicidal, who would you call? Well, maybe if you thought you were on good terms with your solicitor, you might call him up. But would you spend 70 hours on the phone discussing your suicidal urges? Maybe you would, if you had been so emotionally traumatised as the victim in this case.
Turn it around a different way. If you were a lawyer, or a dentist, or a plumber, or an interior designer or a journalist or a bricklayer and one of your customers called you to say they were feeling suicidal, what would you do? You’d probably do the right thing as a human being and you’d listen to them. But would you spend 70 hours listening to them, and would you set your money-clock ticking as you did so, or would you steer them in the direction of a qualified professional and gracefully withdraw?
Taking the most charitable interpretation of it, I can imagine a lawyer being called at all hours of the day and night. This happens. I know it from other people in the profession, but there are ways of dealing with these things that don’t involve taking careful note of the billable minutes as they add up. And besides, even if you found yourself having your ear bent, would you submit a bill for services you are not qualified to provide?
I can’t imagine Paddy charging for, let’s say, assessing the structural stability of a foundation, or measuring the stopping power of a car’s brakes, or assessing the toxicity of a pollutant in the drinking water, although if he’s the same man I’m thinking of, he would be well versed in farming matters. So what on earth did he think he was doing charging for counselling, at a rate no qualified counsellor would ever dream of applying, and is he happy to have it working both ways?
I wonder how Paddy would feel about a counsellor with no legal qualifications offering legal advice at a third of the rate he himself charges?
Of course, I could be wrong. It might well be that his fees reflect the level of his counselling qualifications, despite what the High Court has to say on the matter. For all I know, he might also be qualified in heart surgery, orthopaedics, architecture, craft brewing, chiropody, horticulture and botany. He might even be a doctor of divinity, for all I know.
This time of year is always tricky when dealing with shops. I’ve recently heard one or two horror stories, and besides that, at the moment everything is cut-price, half-price or special offer, so I thought I’d just remind you of your statutory rights under Irish consumer law.
If you buy something new from a shop, you have a contract with the retailer. If your goods are defective, the retailer has to deal with your complaint. Don’t be fobbed off with a phone number for the manufacturer. You have no contract with the manufacturer or supplier, and you do not have to deal with them. The retailer sold you the product and it’s his responsibility to make it right.
The retailer is entitled to repair the goods, provided the repair is permanent, but if this fails, you’re entitled to a refund, or a replacement.
It doesn’t matter if you paid a reduced price for the thing you bought. You have the same rights no matter what price you paid, including the right to a replacement. Don’t let a retailer offer you the reduced price if something goes wrong. Insist instead on a replacement.
You do not have to accept a credit note.
Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, anything you buy new from a retailer must be:of merchantable quality, fit for its normal purpose, and reasonably durable.
It must also be —
as described in the advertising,
as described on the wrapping
as described on any labels.
as described by the salesperson.
Notices saying No refunds or No exchanges are meaningless in law.
Ignore them. They don’t affect your rights in any way.
The British Medical Association has called for a ban on smoking in cars, and a private member’s bill to this effect will be debated in parliament a couple of days from now. The proposed ban would include drivers on their own in the vehicle and would not simply apply to vehicles with passengers.
Now, I’m in two minds about this. Certainly, anyone who smokes in a car with children is an idiot, and I should know. After all, I was that idiot, many years ago, but what about the lone smoker? If we start legislating to prevent people from harming their own health, where do we stop? And for that matter, why don’t we start prosecuting people for harming their children’s health in different ways?
Yesterday, as I passed a school, I saw a distinctly tubby woman collecting an obese little girl. Should we be prosecuting parents for feeding their children on fat-soaked microwave dinners, sugary drinks and instant snacks? Maybe we should. It’s at least as bad as smoking around them and probably worse since the assault of an unhealthy diet on children is more sustained than sporadic fouling of their air.
I don’t have the answer. I’m just asking the question. How far should we legislate for personal stupidity?
It’s perfectly true that smoking causes illnesses that put people in hospital, draining vital resources and making them a burden on society, but that’s also a futile and illogical argument, since people will eventually get sick anyway and end up costing money. We’re all a burden on society and that’s what society is for. We shoulder a collective burden. What’s more, by encouraging people to lead healthy lives, aren’t we simply creating a huge cohort of sick old people? You could say that smokers are doing the country a favour by dying early. Maybe we should pass a law banning old age. The real trick is not to get rid of old-people sickness, but instead to deal with the more recent phenomenon of young-people sickness.
People like me might believe that we’ll live forever, but if course, that’s nonsense. It’s the usual fallacy: the idea that medicine saves lives. It does not. It prolongs them. Medicine defers death.
If we followed the logic, what else should we stop people doing?
Certainly. Why not ban drinking at home immediately? It’s bad for us. No more bottles of wine with dinner. We should also ban pubs where unmonitored drinking takes place. Instead, we should set up official government drinking centres where qualified health professionals dispense an approved number of standard units in hygienic surroundings.
I think we’d have to ban mountaineering, an activity that results in fractures, hypothermia and worse. Fortunes are spent deploying helicopters to rescue lost mountaineers and hill-walkers. Sailing is just as bad. Let’s ban it.
Banking. Now there’s a thing that, worldwide, is causing illness and death on a gigantic scale. How about banning banking?
Are we regulating ourselves out of existence? It seems to me that we in Ireland are closing down our businesses due to overly-zealous regulation, and I wonder if our European neighbours — even the supposedly officious Germans — are as uptight as our inspectors.
In this country, perfectly good restaurants are being shut down, not because they’re dirty but because their kitchens don’t have sufficient floor area. Go to Manhattan and you can enjoy top-quality foood in a diner with a kitchen the size of a phone box, but here in Ireland, we’re so paranoid we take no chances. Our envirnmental health officers are there in case somebody, somewhere might throw up. People minding kids in their homes have to send out to delis for the childrens’ lunches because our inspectors won’t let them make sandwiches.
This is madness.
Right now there’s an ad on the radio where an insane woman rants about your knife your spoon your sink your kitchen your children. It’s designed to make us terrified of our own kitchens where we raised and fed our families. Why? Because the hygiene industry is based on fear and lately the government has become complicit.
We don’t know what it is to use intelligent discretion. If we didn’t have a rule book to follow, we’d be paralysed.
One thing we never hear about is stupidity. Stupid drivers cost hundreds of lives every year. Stupid parents don’t bother to teach their children how to behave, resulting in assaults, thefts and general parasitic uselessness. How much does it cost to bring your kids to the library once a week? Nothing, that’s what. Not a penny. How much does it cost to cook your children a nutritious dinner so they don’t turn into fat bastards? A lot less than your crappy instant supermarket shit, but you don’t do it because you’re stupid. Now that you know passive smoking is dangerous, why do you smoke in front of others? That’s right. Because you’re stupid.
If I had my way, the big crime would be stupidity. I’d put it ahead of drunk driving. When the police stop drivers, by all means breathalyse them, but also administer a standard stupidity test.
You failed but I won’t explain why. You’re not drunk but you are under arrest being an idiot.
The proposed amendment on judges’ pay is written in tortured language and will baffle most reasonably intelligent people.
Section 3 is the worst:
Where, before or after the enactment of this section, reductions have been or are made by law to the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money and such law states that those reductions are in the public interest, provision may also be made by law to make proportionate reductions to the remuneration of judges.
What does that tell you?
Well, first it tells you that Irish parliamentary draughtsmen have lost none of their pomposity or obtuseness. It’s appalling, in the worst traditions of convoluted law when the Europe-wide trend is to write legislation in plain language. Of course, it’s a much more difficult challenge to write something in plain words while keeping it rigorous, so instead, we fall back on the lazy expedient of clauses and sub-clauses in the hope that nobody will notice.
the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money
That’s just shocking.
It’s also unacceptable in our constitution, which is a document that any reasonably educated person should be able to pick up and read. But more to the point, I think it betrays a fear by the government that this controversy about judges’ pay has the potential to light a much bigger bush fire.
Wouldn’t it have been much more sensible simply to add a section saying that judges are public servants and are subject to the same pay cuts as any other public servant? Apparently not, and since Alan Shatter, our Justice minister, is no fool, it’s fair to presume that he already thought of this and decided it couldn’t be done because there is no definition of a public servant or the public service. Civil servants are employed directly by the government but nurses, firemen and the like are not. Their employers are the HSE, the third-level colleges, the secondary schools and the local authorities, although their pay comes from the exchequer. Primary teachers are employed by the local bishop in most cases!
Maybe the language in the amendment is so convoluted to avoid raising the public service question, but maybe it achieves the opposite. What happens when some bright spark of a nurse or a teacher takes a constitutional case and says, Wait a minute, Mr Minister. You’re not my employer, so what right did you have to cut my pay? The bright spark might say You cut the pay of something you called the public service, so go ahead and define what you were talking about. You couldn’t do it when you were trying to whip the judges into line.
And what Supreme Court judge might disagree with this nurse, teacher or fireman, opening the way to a gigantic class action? After all, and bizarrely, this amendment is open to scrutiny by the courts, with the ultimate irony that our judiciary might yet literally become judges in their own case.