Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The new National Consumer Affairs Office

I caught the end of Prime Time last night: BSG is on the same time and frankly I need to the distraction - the final five who could they be?

Have to I was very, very disappointed by the self satisfied performance of Aine Fitzgerald the new head of the National Consumer Agency (NCA). She was asked several times by Miriam O'Callaghan why she thought she would be able to do something about rip offs and she claimed that having a budget of €15 million and powers of "research" would do the trick. Research eh! Didn't sound like she had any inclination of using powers that might any way inconvenience rip off merchants across the country.

I remember watching Carmel Foley who was at the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs the predecessor to the NCA tackling the insurance and legal sectors when she was tasked with finding a means to reduce the costs of car insurance in Ireland and I was really impressed by her. Here was someone who was tenacious and focused and had no time for waffling. It was her work and not the political waffle of McDowell that led to the creation of the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. Sadly she is since off to somewhere else in the state sector the Garda Ombudsman's office I think. Our gain from the perspective of a well run police force but our loss as consumers.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sarah Carey - I've got a bone to pick with you!

In her Sunday Times column Sarah Carey revisits the issue of coverage of the Monaghan car crash of last October. She starts off by talking about the lack of coverage that inquests get as compared to the incidents themselves. Strange thing I had posted specifically on the issue of the lack of coverage of inquests last October as part of Damien Blakes efforts to get something together under the technorati label of roadsafetyblog. And I'd commented on the same specific subject in Sarah's own post which she posted a week later on the topic back in November. Now, it's not plagiarism by any means but I've been getting a little more thin skinned of late when folks repeat things I've said or posted whether on the blog or elsewhere as if it was an idea that had popped fully formed into their heads. I suspect that the youtube article in the ST hasn't helped my perspective either.

Sadly this Paddy's weekend has seen yet more road deaths, five in Donegal alone. Of course at this time we can't know what caused each of these deaths and what factors were at play. However, it is likely that when it comes around to the inquests and as the causes are uncovered that discussion in the DeadTreePress will be noticeable again by its absence.

Slightly miffed at the Sunday Times

I'm sort of miffed today at the Sunday Times and Mark Tighe. Mark's piece about the use of youtube by the PDs and the upcoming election appears to be a piece of advertising for the PDs use of YouTube. My own piece " You pay taxes" has had 4 times the traffic that the PD's A Vision for Ireland and was nominated for a Blog Award but doesn't rate a mention.

Richard Delevan and I had a discussion about the issue of election spending limits and the use of Youtube back on Jan 2nd of this year in the comments on his post on negative advertising. Basically, the big cost will be on the production side. And I agree with the comments of Simon McGarr that the contributions of Ciaran Cuffe and Dominic Hannigan are the most effective examples of the format. Short, frequent and focused. Long wandering sagas just bore people.

There again I spent the whole of Paddy's Day doing battle with the flu using the heavy artillery of Lemsip Max so that might be affecting my humour.

Beyond Stamp Duty

The proposals to attempt to reform the current stamp duty regime released by FG during the previous week drew some rather arched criticism from of all people the PDs. This is all very ironic as there is increasing evidence that it was McDowell's thinking aloud exercise that has provided the trigger to the general destabilisation of the housing market. It seems a sufficient number of people started to postpone purchases in the aftermath of his comments because they believed that something might happen in the budget and then when it didn't they've continued to hold off because they are now convinced something might happen after the election.

The key difference is that FG proposals would take affect in a planned, heavily signposted manner over the course of 3 years and announcing it within weeks of the general election are not going to put the brakes on the housing market. As others would point out being the leader of a party requires a completely different set of skills to being a leading figure in a party. This means to be something that McDowell appears to have failed to grasp as yet. And it remains to be seen with the election in the next two months if he will ever get the chance to learn it.

I'm going to do a follow up post on my own view of where we should go with stamp duty, local taxes and other fun topics.