Irish Examiner view: Enforcement breathes life into our laws

A heavy price to pay for halfhearted compliance
Irish Examiner view: Enforcement breathes life into our laws

In a normal year, a happy circumstance far closer than we imagined just months ago, a Monday morning news bulletin might end with a declaration from one county football or hurling manager or another that he does not agree with a Sunday ruling by a referee who had the temerity to red-card a local hero.

That manager would announce an immediate appeal to some disciplinary high consistory or other.

The objective is, always, not to see justice done but to ensure that the offender’s sanction does not sideline them for the next round of the championship. 

Win at all costs is the philosophy even if that means undermining the games’ rule book. Or, if you care to express it differently, the integrity of all involved. 

Rules are just part of the game, not the agreed guiding principles or foundation of the efforts or objectives involved.

They are in so many circumstances the opposition, not the foundation.

That same news bulletin might have carried a report about how a firm of stockbrokers playing fast and loose to benefit themselves first, their brokerage second, and, last of all, their clients. 

Or maybe it might the latest details in an unfolding scandal in a bank or a credit union that disadvantages those who quaintly believed their interests came first.

It might be gilding the lily to suggest the bulletin would have carried a report for one of the scores of apartment buildings where owners, already put to the pin of their collar to repay a mortgage must whistle up an extra €25,000 to fireproof their homes as if that was an optional extra, like a sunroof in a car. 

Yet those buildings would have been approved by authorities even if by only considering blueprints rather than visiting sites. 

It would not be gilding the lily though to suggest that such a report might be broadcast over the same week as our football managers’ or stockbrokers’ adventures.

The bulletin’s farming segment might well carry a report of how the farm lobby would oppose proposals that might be made, say, during current CAP talks to end the indulgence where farm inspections, other than those dealing with pressing animal welfare issue, must be flagged well in advance. 

It requires spectacular faith to believe that this system is as effective or as reliable as it should be.

Today we report on another regulatory system that is far less effective than it must be. 

Cork City Council is trying to deal with a huge regulatory backlog. Inspections on more than 2,300 properties rented out under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme are long overdue.

Those citizens living in those properties have not been afforded the protection our laws decree.

The council has been accused of failing to meet statutory obligations because of “legacy” delays exacerbated by pandemic limitations.

The Dáil reply last week showed that just 176 onsite inspections of HAP properties were carried out by the last year compared to 441 in 2019.

It is reasonable to concede that the pandemic made this kind of oversight more difficult than is ideal but this also seems just another example of where we make rules but don’t close the loop by enforcing them. 

What a heavy price we pay for this halfhearted compliance — even if besieged football or hurling managers might disagree.

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