Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

BAM BAM …. Leo versus Theo

February 18, 2019

National Children's Hospital

The lyrics of the Lloyd Cole song “The sickest joke was the price of the medicine” is ringing in my head for some reason today.

It’s pretty much accepted now that the Children’s Hospital project is our latest and proudest Irish debacle; before it’s even begun it’s running at pretty much three times the originally projected cost … money that could easily be lent to Donald Trump who desperately needs it for his wall or maybe even some affordable housing here in Ireland?

The media and the opposition benches scream for answers and an expensive enquiry and while we are at it I think we would like to know how this is possible in an era of “transparency and accountability”.

Simon says (that was a kids game we all played, maybe it’s still a game?) very little except sorry – really puzzling why he seems to be protecting people he should be exposing and why he is so slow out of the communication blocks.

Leo is bold and brave and points accusing fingers at certain contractors he won’t name (he knows they have great solicitors) and accuses them of gaming the system “These low balling tricks are too much for our idiots to handle” (my interpretation of what he said!)

Bam

Pascal the man with the cheque book suggests that in future tender rules will be tightened up !!! (Doh …. as Homer Simpson would say!!)

Theo the contractor fights back at Leo with a big “you talking about me??” and bravely looks for clarity and offers to step away from the contract as he knows this whole insinuation is extremely smelly for his company.

All of this talk is really damaging to their reputation and he should fight to protect it.

It’s very likely that he knows full well that any cancellation of contracts will earn the company penalties that us mere mortals could live lavish lifestyles on.

So… what should happen next ??

The most likely scenario is that the contract will plough ahead and Leo will be nice to Theo and insist he didn’t mean them when he spoke about “low-balling contractors that should be banned from tendering” and no one will believe him.

However if Leo believes what he said he should show some balls, fire the team who wrote the tenders (this is a big part of the problem), pull the plug on the existing tender and start again with a water tight tender and a rigid process that is fair to contractors in the event of any legitimate changes to the work.

As for penalties for dismantling the current tender contracts they should most definitely be paid, but these amounts should be fair compensation for any losses incurred to date and nothing else – the PwC fee note might be better used officiating over this figure rather than on a report, which in all likelihood will go nowhere and will lead to nothing.

These penalties, valuable taxpayers money, will be the fault of those who were paid to oversee the tender process, not the contractors who were awarded them and they should be held accountable.

If Theo and his crew are still interested in doing some great work on a badly needed hospital then go for it and make your fair profit, you deserve that.

We need that hospital built as soon as possible but at a price that we can all believe was fair.

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

The wisdom of Louis Copeland

March 25, 2018

Louis Copeland - Fuzion Win Happy Podcast

Sometime in 2004 I approached legendary Irish retailer, Louis Copeland to see if he was interested in coming on board with a high end fashion event called Catwalks that we were taking on tour around Ireland.

To be clear, I didn’t know him, I had never spoken to him before and after a quick ‘cold-call‘ (I can’t have been too bad a salesman!!) he asked would we call in to see him and tell him more about our event.

The following week we called in to see him and we were greeted by a warm, open, friendly Louis Copeland.

After about five minutes, when we were in full flight in the middle of our sales pitch he unexpectedly declared “I’ll do it” and then quickly changed the topic..”Tell me about you two?

We spent at least another hour with him and he showed a genuine interest in us, our project, why we were doing it and what else were we up to. When the meeting finished (more like a friendly chat really) I asked Dee if she thought he had actually agreed to come on board, because he had barely got details about the event.

This was the beginning of my great journey with King Louis, as I call him! (or King Louis 2nd – his dad was also Louis).

Since then he has come in and out of our lives at different times. He did the event on that occasion and supported us on many other things since. He seems to follow us with interest and he will always call out of the blue when he might read about us or hear something on the radio.

When the recession clouds gathered around all of us, I heard him being interviewed on the radio and he offered a powerful piece of advice as to how people should cope.

Get up earlier, work harder and work later” was his advice, and something that I embraced.

My own Monday morning social media mantra, inspired by Louis (for anyone who has seen my tweets for the last decade will confirm) is:

Roll those sleeves up, get stuck in and have a great week #Positivity”.

When I arrived to record the session for this podcast he probed and probed me to learn more about podcasts, the process, who is listening to them and why. His natural curiosity and openness is just one of the ways he always stays relevant and successful.

Louis is an inspiration, he is a mentor, who is always at the end of a phone to bounce things off and offer assistance or provide a helpful contact.

Fuzion Win Happy Podcast

In this podcast I’ve done my best to capture his story, the secret sauce behind the success of his great business, his approach to marketing, what he does to stay relevant, his approach to online and who his favourite celebrity customer is!

You can listen by clicking here, or by subscribing on iTunesThe Fuzion Win Happy Podcast

A huge thanks once again to the retail legend, Louis Copeland for being a good friend and for taking part and being so open and generous.

Enjoy…

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

Facing homelessness in 2018

January 10, 2018

After a very surprising and unexpected conversation with a fellow member of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, I asked her to write a guest blog post for me. This is the first time I have done this on my blog.

The very lovely, intelligent and highly qualified, Jensine-Bethna Wall has recently started her own business, Hyphenate, and is facing the prospect of being homeless.

Dublin, we have a serious problem..

Ireland, we have a serious problem..

Blog post by Jensine:

The New Year has just begun and already fear has nestled itself tightly into the pit of my stomach.

After eight years of calling the house I rent my home in a few months time I have to move out, and find a new place to stay. So unlike so many who look towards 2018 full of hope and optimism my mind is clogged with trying to figure out what to do once the 1st of May has arrived, and I no longer have a roof over my head.

Moving has always been a traumatic event in anyone’s life but now for many, who live and work in Dublin (and the rest of Ireland), moving has become a fiscally impossible task. Irish rents are rising at six times the European median (The Irish Times 8th January 2018) which means that salaries don’t go far in this new Irish rental market.

Ironically the rental market is also the reason why I have to move.

My landlord claims it has to do with me being late with my rent a few time over the years but I know, from what he has said and from how he kept bringing ‘market value’ up, that he wants me out so he can hike up the price.

Since I’ve been living in the property since 2010 he can only increase the rent little by little so now he wants me out. He doesn’t care that I have been a vital part in creating a community in the street, or that I have increased the value of his property by helping to get rid of drug dealers in the neighbourhood, nor is he interested in the fact that after eight years of me living in the cottage all it needs is a lick of paint and someone could move right back in – no major refurbishment required!

So during these sleepless nights trying to figure out what I can afford and where I could go I can’t help but feel forgotten by the government and those who don’t seem to recognise how problematic the rental market is in Ireland. And sadly, as a single, female who lives on her own I am also not a high priority for the media.

And while of course I understand the need to house children, I can’t help but feel that a roof over my head and a place to feel safe and secure in, is just as important for me. But with the lack of housing and the need for single occupancy living quarters, single people are at the bottom of everyone’s priority list.

My recent visit to the Dublin City Council Housing Services proves just how low a priority I am, as I was told that I would have to wait 12 years before ‘affordable rented housing for people on low income’ would become available for me, even though all the forms I had to fill in and were stamped, deemed me eligible.

After I burst out laughing, the horror of the situation demanded tears or laughter, I was told that I may be eligible for HAP (Housing Assistance Payment). But this brief moment of hope was shattered with the added statement “if you can find a landlord who will accept it’”

Not understanding why landlords wouldn’t accept a regular payment from the State and that it is actually illegal not to, I asked around and found three reasons why:

1) The rent is paid in arrears, so the landlord won’t receive payment until the end of the month, which for many doesn’t coincide with their mortgage payments and why wait when so many pay up front?

2) The landlord will have to register their property and many don’t as they avoid taxes by not doing so

3) There is some paperwork involved and landlords won’t want to do that if there is no need when queues form for every viewing

Scouring the Internet for any suitable housing is eating up hours of my days, adding to my stress and increasing the crippling fear that has taken up residency in my stomach.

I set up my own business in October 2017 and work from home, office space is too expensive, but this means that sharing accommodation isn’t desirable.

And since I am in my forties and have lived on my own most of my adult life forcing me to cohabit due to financial strain will not benefit my mental health.

Recently the NHS completed a study on the effects that housing has on peoples health and found that  “good quality, affordable, safe housing underpins our mental and physical well-being”, so when there is no affordable housing, let alone safe and quality ones, people suffer more from depression and anxiety.

As the year grows older by the day I can’t help but wonder how I, an educated, socially conscious and community oriented single woman, have ended up facing homelessness in 2018.

Jensine

 

Jenny, Oh Jenny – what have we done?

September 8, 2017

Gilabbey Park, Jenny Dennehy

Thank God it’s Friday we all think..

It’s been the end of another busy week as we all go about our thing.

In my case its been hectic, another week working between our Dublin and Cork offices, team meetings, lots of work, busy meeting clients and prospects.

Friday night means a trip to Dunnes Stores on our way home to do the shopping and to stock up on lots of nice goodies and tasty treats for the weekend as well as the basics. Yes, of course there will be bottles of nice wine, some beer and maybe even a bottle of gin, if we are running low.

The dogs are always thrilled to see us and they seem to sense that it’s Friday and they will see more of us in the next few days.

We’ll put the shopping away and take them for a stroll and when we come back it’s on with the grub and either head to the local for a drink or three or get together with our great friends.

The weekend is full of possibilities, things to do, fun to be had, visits to my folks, catch up with my kids and watch some football.

Before we turn off the light we will probably watch something on Netflix until those eyelids get too heavy.

Eventually the light is turned off and we comfortably slip under the covers waiting on a blissful Saturday morning to greet us…

 

…Jenny was evicted from her flat.

Jenny managed to get a tent from Cork Simon and she found a nice spot in Gilabbey Park to pitch it.

Jenny turned in on this same Friday night but never saw Saturday morning.

Jenny – God knows why everything started to go wrong for you and God knows why no one was there to give you the help you needed.

Jennifer (Jenny) Dennehy was found dead in a tent in Gilabbey Park, in our city in the early hours of Saturday, 2nd September 2017. According to all the reports there were no “unusual circumstances” – if you think about it, this is the most ridiculous statement ever.

There were all the usual declarations of shock and horror by politicians and a family asks for us to respect their privacy.

For a few days we all talk about the shocking housing crisis (we can build commercial buildings efficiently and without a problem but when it comes to housing our “people”, well that’s just something we are not very good at, or  being very truthful it just isn’t lucrative enough) and then move onto another topic until we have another Jenny.

Jenny, we are all to blame.

Jenny, Rest In Peace

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

Consumer confidence stats and avoiding self fulfilling prophecies

August 14, 2017

Consumer Confidence

I just received an industry update from one of the key business sector publications in Ireland.

It led with a headline about “Consumer Confidence” statistics.

It went on explain:

In the last month, two key indicators of consumer confidence in Ireland and the UK have been released showing a decline in confidence since the first quarter of 2017

In went on to discuss Ireland: “In Ireland, the B&A consumer confidence tracker found that whilst consumers remain positive, the levels of this positivity have fallen from the optimism shown in the first quarter of the year. This was particularly true for consumers within Dublin, who showed a significant decline in this period

It then went on to discuss consumer sentiment the UK: “In the UK, market research firm Gfk’s consumer confidence index fell to -12 in July from -10 in June. According to Reuters despite low levels of unemployment, household’s assessment of the economic situation was a major component of the decline in confidence for this period

It then summarised both positions: “It is clear that the uncertainty around Brexit has continued to affect consumers and the B&A and Gfk trackers will be a good measure to keep an eye on as negotiations progress

While thankfully they avoided a negative headline the piece did leave me in a negative frame of mind.

While this information is valuable the way it was delivered only succeeds in making everyone who reads it pessimistic about the future and behaving conservatively.

Suddenly ‘negative consumer sentiment‘ becomes a self fulfilling prophecy with industry reacting negatively and so on and so on.

I am not for softening up bad news but when we deliver negative statistics we need to communicate a full story that is never as bad as the potential doomsday outcome in our heads, unless we want it to be.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Making sure that ‘Great Taste’ is never lost

August 3, 2017

The Great Taste awards, described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world are organised by the Guild of Fine Food.

They are the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink, and when a consumer sees the Great Taste logo on an item it is a sign that they will be buying a great tasting product.

This year (2017) Food and drink producers entered 12,300 products with 4,347 earning 3, 2 and 1 star ratings of which 444 originated from Ireland.

Overall just 165 products earned a 3 Star rating and 1,011 a 2 star rating with Irish products well represented in both of these categories.

PatWhelan, james Whelan Butchers - Great Taste Awards

The Golden Forks (the big winners) will be announced at a celebration dinner at the International Park Lane Hotel, London on the 4 September.

Great Taste, values taste above all else, with no regard for branding or packaging. Whether it is gin, biscuits, sausages or coffee being judged, all products are removed from their packaging, wrapper, jar, box or bottle before being tasted. Furthermore the judges have no idea the price that these products normally retail at.

It’s all about the taste!

The judges then savour, confer and re-taste to decide which products are worthy of a 1, 2, or 3 star award.

As you can imagine the judging panel is very illustrious and this year it included; chef, food writer and author, Gill Meller, MasterChef judge and restaurant critic, Charles Campion, author and Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen chef, Zoe Adjonyoh, baker, Tom Herbert, and food writer and baking columnist, Martha Collison, as well as food buyers from Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols.

These esteemed palates have together tasted and re-judged the 3-star winners and will finally agree on the 2017 Top 50 Foods, which will be announced in August, with the Golden Fork Trophy winners and the Great Taste 2017 Supreme Champion unveiled on the 4th September.

Just Taste!

Judging the food and drink products on their taste seems very fair and as you would expect – the packaging and branding is removed so that the judges are able to experience the products in their pure, true state, without any interference or bias.

Sunnes Stores - Sticky Toffee Pudding

When do we ever, truly taste anything?

The minute that award winning cake goes into a wrapper, it changes the taste for the consumer.

  • Once we see the packaging, the colours, the type of paper and the visuals, it changes the taste.
  • Once we see the brand name, it changes the taste.
  • Once we read where the product is made and we see the ingredients, it changes the taste.
  • Once the product is placed in a retail outlet, it changes the taste.
  • Once we see where it is placed in the store, it changes the taste.
  • Once we see some POS and the product displayed on a promotional stand, it changes the taste.
  • Once a price is put on the product, it changes the taste.
  • When the product is on special offer, it changes the taste.
  • When a well dressed sampling person invites you to taste a thumbnail of the product, it changes the taste.
  • When we see that the brand is endorsed by a well known personality, it changes the taste.
  • When we see adverts for the product in a newspaper, it changes the taste.
  • When we see adverts for the product in a glossy magazine, it changes the taste
  • When a respected food journalist tells you the product is superb, it changes the taste.
  • When we open the pack at home and we are in a great mood, it changes the taste.

Today’s consumer is influenced by everything they see, hear and taste. We are also influenced by a lifetime of experiences, good and bad, by our peers and we all carry with us a lorry load of biases.

With great products our job and the job of everyone else in the chain that brings the product to the consumer, is to make sure that person can actually ‘taste’ the product.

The Great Taste Awards and that big round logo that you will see on products will also help!

Congratulations to two of our clients, James Whelan Butchers and Simply Better by Dunnes Stores who scooped up Great Taste Awards, once again this year.

James Whelan Butchers are Great Taste 3-star winners with their Pork Lard, a natural and clear lard made from slowly rendered back fat, with a “fabulous long lasting and clean pork flavour” – it’s all about taste!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Did you hear the one about the “Kerry” man?

July 24, 2017

Kerry

Did you hear the one about the ‘Kerry’ man?” was the joke that we heard often years ago.

We don’t hear that joke being told too much these days and maybe, that’s because “Kerry” has become worthy of respect for so many reasons including prowess on the sporting field, the most beautiful of places, links golf courses, fantastic hospitality, success in business with huge companies such as Kerry Group and FEXCO and even politicians that should never be underestimated!

There is something very special about Kerry and this is recognised in Ireland and internationally.

There is something so special about ‘Kerry’ that a huge legal dispute has been rumbling for the last few years between the food giants, Kerry Group and Ornua.

Kerry Group introduced their Kerrymaid butter product into the Spanish market a few years back and Ornua, the makers of Kerrygold have legally challenged their right to do so.

While this case is complex it looks like Kerry Group have won this battle (according to the European Court of Justice) as:

  • both have been selling in the EU already, for quite a while alongside each other (in Ireland and the UK) and
  • the word ‘Kerry’ is okay to use as it is an indication of geographical origin as long as this is true and honest

I read the legal jargon about the case and there are many subtleties to each of these points but this was the gist of it (please read the case in detail if this is an important issue for you).

Kerry!

In a way this opens up a huge can of worms for both of these brands as it implies that if you are in Kerry and you produce a product then you can use the word ‘Kerry’ as part of the name.

Kerry is obviously a fantastic brand right now with many positive attributes – there are no right or wrong answers here as the brand attributes are what each of us believes them to be.

When I think of Kerry I think of positive things such as nature, beauty, the coast, agriculture, hospitality, quality, sport, literature, music, business success, resilience but I also do think of negative things such as poor roads, too many American tourists, cute politicians and a few rough towns.

This is my version of  ‘Kerry’ but for others it will be quite different and we all carry things in our heads that make up what the brand is for us.

If Kerry suffered from a major incident such as a gigantic oil spill that contaminated the whole coastline then maybe the use of the name on products may not be as positive as it is today – while this is hard to imagine, having your brand attached to name that is largely out of your control could be risky.

Kerry – is it good for the butter?

While Kerrygold is a very successful brand, is it because it carries the name ‘Kerry’ or is it because it is a great product with great packaging and marketed really well? – I’m sure all of these elements contribute to the success.

Kerrygold and KerrymaidIn the case of the ‘butter wars’ I suspect that one part of the argument is about the ability to use the word ‘Kerry’ as it borrows all of the positive attributes of the place but for others who may not be as familiar with the place, a different argument could be that they are borrowing the positive attributes of the other product.

Would the Spanish know enough about the Kerry region to now the attributes of the location?

The Reverse Argument

In this particular case one could make a strong case against any company being able to use the name of a place in their brand and not actually producing it in that location – is this an even more serious issue for another day?

Place of Origin Branding

When we incorporate the name of a place in our brand or company name, we do automatically benefit from the positive attributes but, most importantly, if we are to use that place name, we also have a responsibility to uphold that name and not damage it in any way.

Did you hear the one about the Kerryman who thought he could sell his butter in Spain – he was right!  

If you need to chat about your brand, give us a call!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

The most important person to health in Ireland is an IT man!

May 21, 2017

Richard Corbridge, HSE, EHealth Ireland

There was huge interest in the Dublin Chamber, morning event hosted by solicitors Mason Hayes Curran because the speaker was Englishman, Richard Corbridge who is the Chief Information Officer with the HSE and CEO of eHealth Ireland.

The very public hacking of the computers of the NHS in the UK brought the Cyber Security topic into focus and this fed an even greater interest than usual in this Dublin Chamber event.

While I was expecting a big talk about Cyber Security from the affable and very engaging Richard I ended up hearing something much more important, I heard about ‘First Dates‘.

Richard used this fantastic ‘first dates‘ analogy to describe how essential it is that the health system in Ireland needs to wake up in 2017 because quite frankly, first dates are no longer acceptable.

This simple point struck a huge chord with me.

Very recently I attended a ‘huge’ and incredibly serious consultation with a senior doctor with a close relative. At this consultation, the topic was of the gravest nature and literally half of the session was spent with the doctor flicking through various papers and asking the most basic of questions in an attempt to bring himself fully up to speed so he could deliver the best medical advice.

As I sat there I couldn’t help thinking that not only was a lot of valuable time wasted by this ‘paper’ system but the margin for error is just colossal.

When you meet a doctor for the first time (when you are born?) this should be the only first date you ever have to experience. Everyone else along the way should have your full medical history at their fingertips so that they have the full story and all of their valuable time and energy should go into the best possible diagnosis.

Richard spoke about many things including the huge positive changes that have been experienced in some of the maternity hospitals where this IT vision has begun and also some incredible improvements with certain medical conditions such as Epilepsy directly as a result of technology.

He also spoke about his committed team, who pulled out all stops to make sure we didn’t suffer the same fate as the NHS. He needs to bring this team with him and expand it to achieve what is needed.

Richard’s enthusiasm for his vision is infectious but it is clear that he is trying to achieve this vision in a mammoth, understandably slow-moving public sector organisation. My sincere hope is that he receives all the support that he needs and that he digs deep and stays the course because it will be frustrating.

To achieve this vision Richard needs to communicate it over and over as eloquently as he did last week both internally and externally and he must not stop until his vision has been achieved.

The irony in all of this is that the health of Ireland rests in the hands of an Englishman who isn’t even a medical doctor!

Richard…thank you, but please, please, don’t give up, we won’t allow you to!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

The St.Patrick’s Day lost opportunity

March 16, 2017

St.Patrick's DAy

Can you imagine getting off the plane today, 16th March visiting Ireland for the first time. It’s the eve of St.Patrick’s Day, the iconic Irish festival and I wonder what are your expectations?

You have heard all about it, you have seen some footage on the TV, you know about the Irish dignitaries visiting foreign lands pressing the flesh and exchanging gifts of the shamrock. You know about the Irish celebrations all over the world on this special day where the Irish (and so many who would love to be Irish!) celebrate their Irishness. You have heard about Ireland, the friendly, beautiful country that is famous for the warm welcome, the craic and of course the pubs with that iconic drink, Guinness.

You must be excited..

I’ve just parked the car, grabbed a coffee and walked to the office and I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of this visitor – what do they see, what do they experience, what are they thinking?

Except for the window of the Tourist Office you really wouldn’t even know that there was a festival. That poor tourist must be a little confused!

I haven’t come to town to see the parade for donkey’s years (even though I do hear its got a lot better) and I haven’t considered it either this year either despite our office being on the route with a perfect view. Outside of the parade is there anything else that would bring me to town to celebrate my Irishness? I know there are some activities planned around the city for the weekend but the occasion just hasn’t crept inside my skin, it doesn’t connect with me.

Palio

Twice a year in Siena (start and end of the summer) in Tuscany there is a festival called the Palio of ‘Palio di Siena‘ which is basically a local festival that runs for a week each time that culminates in a bare back horse race in the Piazzo del Campo at the centre of the town.

Palio

Every man, woman and child comes out and celebrates. They sing, they parade behind their horses and at night they eat and drink together.

The Guardian refer to it “It’s not a horse race, it’s a way of life” and they talk about it being an “embodiment of civic pride”.

We have been there about six times as I am totally seduced by this special feeling of being connected and part of a community spirit, a coming together.

Everytime I go there I wish and long for something in Ireland that can bring out the same spirit and feeling of community, pride and connectedness –  St.Patrick’s Day should be that day but for some reason it falls short.

St.Patrick’s Day is one of our greatest assets and it should be the most special day in all of our calendars. Every man, woman and child, let’s celebrate together!

How can we make that happen?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service national agency that offers Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

The speeding fine and the wrong address?

February 18, 2017

garda-camera

The first I knew I had been caught speeding coming out of Dublin last year was when Dee called me.

A Garda had knocked on the door of our house with a Court Summons – she was working from home that Tuesday.

He remarked that “you are never at home” as this was his fourth time calling!

Dee called me immediately as according to the summons I was due in Naas Courthouse the following Thursday week. Not only had I been caught doing 113 in a 100 stretch of the motorway leaving Dublin but I had also neglected to pay the resulting fine!

There was obviously an error as I had never even received the speeding fine.

I called the phone number for An Garda Síochána that was on the summons and as expected I was put through to some call centre.

I explained to the woman on the phone that I was more than happy to pay my fine but I had never received the notice so a court appearance should not be necessary.

Do you not send a follow up reminder, like one would get with a phone bill or any other bill?” I asked her.

No, we send one fine notice by regular post and if you don’t pay we automatically start a court process” she explained.

This is totally crazy, how can you rely on regular post with something so serious? I pay my bills, I was one of the stupid idiots who actually paid their water charges! Who can I talk to?

I was quickly given the usual “there is nothing I can do” line and was told to ring the court. I asked her if a lot of people ring with the same issue and she admitted it is a regular occurrence.

Change the stupid process maybe?!!

postman

I tried calling the court phone number she gave me and failed miserably to get past their answering machine – I guessed that would have been another pointless round of “there is nothing I can do” so I gave up.

A quick call to my solicitor confirmed that this bullshit system is what it is and the best advice was to attend at 10:30 as indicated.

Brilliant…a trip to Naas on a busy workday is all I needed!

I changed around my week so that I could make my court date. I left Cork early for Naas on the Thursday. I hoped the whole thing would be done quickly so I could make a meeting in Dublin in the afternoon. I told my client I might be delayed and quite frankly I was embarrassed about the whole court thing so I didn’t mention why.

As expected the court was a hive of activity with every sort hanging around, with many huddled in corners chatting to their solicitors.

The court clerk directed me to the lists on the wall. I was number 51 on the list in Court 1. I asked her if there was any chance that I would be gone by lunchtime. She expected I would be.

I made my way into the packed courtroom and found myself a space to sit on one of the many wooden benches. There was a very mixed crowd in the room including a bunch of tough looking lads in tracksuits near the front of the court.

The Judge got into the flow of his day with breakneck speed processing case after case.

The names were called and as each person approached the bench he shouted “Hearing date” at them.

That was the prompt to admit to the charge in question or look for a case date. It was clear that 90% of the cases were speeding fines and he flew through them one after another.

59 in a 50 – “sorry Judge, I was on holidays and missed the deadline for paying” – case dismissed!

146 in a 120 – “guilty” – “that’s a 300 euro fine. You have 6 months to pay

There was an interruption to the speeding fines to deal with one of the tough looking young lads that was in the court. It was hard to hear the conversation between the Judge and the barrister but it resulted in a hearing date and the young lad was led out of the court in handcuffs. It looked like he was quite used to this environment.

An older woman’s name was called and she shuffled to the top of the room on her bad legs “Hearing date” …”I have two already” was her response. She thought he said “hearing aid“. The whole court room giggled as well as the judge.

She received a fine.

Another poor old man who clearly needed a hearing aid tried to explain that he had paid his fine but it got lost in the post. “Case dismissed

The man was told he didn’t have to pay his fine.

Was I missing something – why not pay the fine?

Eventually my name was called and I made my way to the top of the courtroom. “Hearing date?

I accept the speeding charge but I never received the fine, your honour” I explained.

Do you want a hearing date?” he repeated.

I repeated what I said and he asked me again about a hearing date.

I’m happy to pay a fine but I didn’t receive a notice

The Judge looked at me and paused and asked carefully if I had taken legal advice and I explained that my advice was that I should attend. He gave me a look.

I was clearly missing something.

He offered to swear me into evidence at the end of the court sitting as a way to resolve this. I explained to him that I just needed to get to Dublin and was okay with paying a fine.

150 euros fine” and then he said the strangest thing “did you ever hear the expression ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’?

Was he saying I could have got away without paying a fine – surely not?

As I walked out of the court, anxious to make my appointment in Dublin, a guy grabbed my arm and enlightened me.

You just cost yourself extra penalty points. It’s all or nothing, he was giving you a way out!

It’s all or nothing – the judge can’t insist on you paying a fine and waive the second part, which is the extra penalty for not paying. This stupid system is costing the country as the judge must dismiss the case and waive the speeding fine or else charge you in full!

Damn – I messed up.

While I was totally frustrated at this point I had to be happy with my decision to get out of there and make my client meeting.

This system is totally crazy – one fine by regular post that never reached me, no reminders, four house calls by a busy Garda, a court wasting valuable time and resources and I wasted a whole day including the cost of travel.

I guarantee 100% that if you drove through the M50 auto toll heading to Dublin airport and you did not pay your toll fee then they would track you down with notices, reminders and further notices.

The following day I read how the government agency, Tusla sent a written apology to the Garda whistleblower, Maurice McCabe because of their fiasco with the false sex accusations. Ironically the whistle blowing was about members of the Gardaí squashing speeding fines.

Their apology went to the wrong address!

There is a of time being wasted by An Garda Siochána and the courts because of really poor systems that results in ordinary folk being dragged unfairly to court on nonsense charges..come on!!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service agencu that offers Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland