Sunday, August 23, 2009

on passing by- again

I know I touched on this a while ago but its getting harder and harder not to believe that the petrol companies in Ireland are involved in a wholesale rip off of the general public. Last year when the price of a barrel of oil was touching one hundred and forty eight dollars we were being charged up to one euro and twenty nine cents a litre for unleaded petrol. Today, June 19th, the price of a barrel is just pushing past sixty seven dollars and yet unleaded petrol is pushing one euro twenty cents a litre. Are we really to believe that a difference of eighty dollars per barrel equates to less than ten cents a litre? If we are paying this price on a sixty seven dollar barrel surely last years prices should have been phenomenal, given the barrel price. I am more inclined to believe that the oil companies have decided to chance their arm and see exactly how far they can go before there is a public backlash. With so many people becoming more and more worried about debts and their employment, both current and prospective, petrol prices appear to be something that is annoying but not something you can do much about. This sentiment has obviously percolated into the petrol retailers and they have decided to make the proverbial hay while the sun is trying to shine on joe public. Just for pig iron I e-mailed the office of the Director for Consumer Affairs to see what their opinions were on the situation. Their eventual reply was somewhat on the lines of what I had expected, if a little more blunt. Regardless of the wholesale price of oil the Director of Consumer Affairs and the Government are powerless to intervene in the market. It is official Government policy to allow the market to set commodity prices and this should in turn foster competition. This is all very fine and seems to be working in the grocery sector but apparently the oil companies have all set an independent price for their products and through no fault of their own they have all come up with nearly the same price. Far be it from me to cast aspersions but to paraphrase Mr Shakespeare, there is something rotten in the state of the oil companies.
Some time ago Bank of Ireland held its annual general meeting. This has normally been quite a genteel affair with the board applauding themselves for yet another year of bumper profits. This year however things were of an entirely different nature. Large holders of the banks stock usually don’t bother to attend but a significant number of the public who do attend are elderly and were using their holdings as a pension provision. These people were both angry and afraid because of the massive drop in the value of their shares and many were fearful for the future. The answer from the top table was that the board was sorry for their troubles but that at this stage things were outside their control and they would just have to grin and bear it. This is why I find the following both disturbing and immoral. Bank of Ireland, along with the other banks, operates a share buying scheme for their staff. Employees are entitled to buy shares at a preferential rate and some of them had invested up to twenty one thousand euro to buy shares at less than eleven euro. Given the nosedive in share value these employees are now in the same boat as the pensioners although I am sure most of them are suffering less than the pensioners. Actually what I should say is that they were nursing losses. With a huge sense of largesse the Bank has agreed to compensate employees for their losses by repaying the full amount to any of their staff who took a gamble, at a reduced rate, and now find that it backfired. So its one set of circumstances for them and another set for the rest of us. Then again I suppose its easy to spend money to keep the staff happy when the taxpayer has already had to advance three and a half billion to Bank of Ireland. I am just delighted to see that they are spending it wisely.

I have been absolutely shocked, as I am sure have the vast majority of the population, at the Ryan report into child abuse. Some of the parts I have read have been more like a horror novel than a factual report. To think that this abuse went on for so long is an absolute disgrace but to find out that the religious orders concerned were aware of the situation and did absolutely nothing is scandalous. To compound the scandal we find out that the people who should have been supervising the Orders, the Department of Education, were also aware of the abuse but appear to have chosen to ignore it. The Ryan report found that officials of the Department treated the Orders with blind deference and accepted the answers they were given when any complaints were raised. When eventually the stink became too much to ignore the Government was forced to think about an enquiry. This suggestion resulted in a flurry of legal activity by the Orders, who were obviously aware of what the findings would be. The worst offender on the legal front was the Christian Brothers, who appear to have spent more money on legal bills than they have on compensating victims of their heinous abuse. They started off by challenging the Governments right to set up an enquiry. When this challenge failed they threatened to have nothing to do with the enquiry at all. Rather than tackle them head on the Government eventually agreed that no Christian Brother found to have abused children in their care would be named, even those who had been found guilty in a court of law. Throughout the enquiry the Orders were frequent visitors to the court to attempt to impede its progress. After decades of abuse they were only too well aware of the can of worms which was about to be opened. When we eventually found out the whole sorry tale the Orders attempted to put their own evil spin on it. Yes, certain people were abusing children but we were not aware of the full extent of the abuse. Yes, it shouldn’t have happened but those were different times. Yes, these children were in our care but you have to remember that most of them were convicted criminals.
Just to demonstrate how little they valued the children they destroyed the Christian Brothers put all their property and assets into Trusts soon after the enquiry started. This was the reason they could give no more in compensation, according to them .The other Orders pleaded similar penury And yet when the full horror of their actions was revealed, and the extent of the public backlash became clear, they suddenly found that they did after all have other assets. After giving living hell to the children while preaching to us about heaven, it’s the least they could do. May God forgive them, because I can’t.

All for now. Mike Edmonds. June 09.

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