In one housing estate in Kilkenny, the unemployment rate was 85% during the last general election, Fianna Fáil Deputy John McGuinness told the Dáil.
Speaking during a debate on the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill, he said the last election and the previous local government election brought to light the devastation in communities in his constituency. A number of housing estates had grown marginalised.
He said there was the need for good community structures.
“For example, a good family resource centre can make a significant difference,” he said. “A community centre in the old sense of the term can also make a significant difference. Many of the family resource centres established in the past 14 years have made positive contributions and have expanded the range of services they provide to their communities. This was made possible by tapping into national lottery grants initially and, more importantly, dormant accounts.”
It was not always the case that these accounts had been abandoned by rich people, he said. They were bank accounts that can be reclaimed through this scheme at any time, yet they were important in terms of their positive impact on local communities and services.
“Given the pot of money that has built up in dormant accounts over the years, it might be no harm for the Minister of State to consider the question of the corporate responsibility of large companies and, to a certain degree, the issue of philanthropy,” he said. “Although most of the financial institutions are in serious difficulty, some continue to make profits and, along with individuals, may wish to contribute to society in some way. This is a vehicle they could consider using for their contributions.”
Deputy McGuinness said it would be worthwhile to involve others in contributing to the dormant accounts fund.
“If we want to be all-inclusive and citizen centred, those who are well off could be given an opportunity to contribute in this way,” he added.
Legal system must address needs of the public - Phelan
The centre-piece of reform of the legal system must be concern for the people who consume legal services, those who need to contact a solicitor or barrister for whatever reason, Carlow/Kilkenny FG Deputy John Paul Phelan told the Dáil.
That was at the core of what Justice Minister Alan Shatter was trying to do in the new Legal Services Bill, he said.
“It is natural that the professions themselves are somewhat resistant to change,” he said. “As somebody who aspires to be a member of one of those professions, I come across a number of people who are strongly resistant to change, but there are many legal practitioners, particularly of the younger variety, who are quite supportive of large tracts of this legislation, although they may not be in a position to express that support forcefully.”
The basis for the introduction of this new legislation was an attempt to reduce legal costs, which was part of the memorandum of understanding with the troika, he said. Legal costs in this country were particularly high, and any legislation that sought to reduce those costs was certainly to be welcomed.
Deputy Phelan said he had spoken to the Minister and others about the issue of barristers’ fees.
“I am quite friendly with many young, qualified barristers who find it hard to break into the profession and hard to make a living from it,” he said. “This is one criticism I would level at the bodies that govern the legal profession at present. They correctly point out that there are no barriers to entry to the profession in that people can apply and be accepted, but there are real barriers when it comes to the practice of law.”
One of the fundamental barriers for newly qualified barristers is actually getting paid for the work they do, he said. There was no shortage of work but there was certainly a shortage of pay.
“I ask the Minister whether it might be appropriate to insert a provision in the legislation to allow barristers to sue for their fees,” he said.