JUNIOR ENTERPRISE minister Neale Richmond will not have been pleased at being described by Fine Gael spin doctors as the person responsible for the cancellation of last October’s Business Breakfast fundraiser (€100 a pop for a full Irish in the Mansion House). Richmond will be especially displeased as he, like most FG south Dublin professionals and, in particular, party legal eagles know the real reason for the cancellation.
The event was cancelled due to the poor take-up of tickets and the Irish Mail on Sunday recently explained – with info from the usual impeccable sources – that this was due to the weak drawing power of the less-than-stellar appeal of junior minister Richmond as guest speaker. Now, the story went, Richmond’s replacement with “party heavyweight Paschal Donohoe” would solve the problem this October, although the cut-price tickets – down to €80 from €100 – for the bash in the new venue of the Shelbourne indicates other factors at play here. So, too, did that part of the Mail story that referred to the usual strong support for the Business Breakfast fundraiser from “Fine Gael’s legal and well heeled supporters in south Dublin”.
It is perhaps true that Paschal may have ever so slightly more charisma than Neale. But the real problem is the failure of the normal, em, government patronage and professional support for Blue barristers and solicitors from a government that has had a Fine Gael justice minister for 12 long years now. Expectations among FG legal persons of advancement and patronage have always been high but in recent years the party has greatly disappointed many in the profession with its ‘pandering’ to vested interests and populist pressures.
This began in the lifetime of the last government when Charlie ‘BlackandTanagain’ Flanagan was justice minister and the Judicial Council Act 2019 was passed into law in a febrile atmosphere that blamed the high cost of insurance on the high cost of insurance claims. This paved the way for the creation of the personal injuries guidelines committee, composed of judges whose task was to create new guidelines for personal injuries claims to be endorsed – or not – by the full Judicial Council (composed of all judges). This was widely expected to produce reform of the awards made to claimants (ie much smaller) and, consequently, lower legal costs.
Unfortunately, this plan has worked a treat and, while the insurance premium part of the scheme leaves much to be desired, the awards paid out – and the legal costs awarded – have been slashed.
That part of the Mail story referring to “legal and well heeled” FG fans normally supporting the party financially is spot on but so, too, is the corollary which indicates that such support is a two-way process. Despite 12 years of deep Blue domination at the justice department, the current legislation on the determination of personal injury awards has dented the normally favourable attitude of many legal eagles towards the party of law ‘n’ order.
Even worse, a positively subversive attitude towards the FG party has now taken hold and the main reason for the poor response to last year’s Business Breakfast bash from the normally loyal south Dublin professionals was the ‘pauperisation’ of many such baby Blueshirts.
Will the magnetic Paschal turn back this resentful attitude among such lukewarm party supporters?
This situation is yet another blow to current FG justice minister Helen McEntee, who can reasonably argue that she was not in situ when the original plans were drawn up – at least a year before she was appointed minister – but who will also know by now that perception is all in politics.