It is amazing that with the bank guarantee scheme announced on 30 September 2008, it took 48 hours to put in place a law which exposed the Irish nation to €440bn of losses. Of course the government will say that the country was at the time facing a national emergency. But it does show that under the Constitution new legislation can be drafted and enacted very quickly even when it creates colossal risks to the citizenry.
In respect of the House Price Database, committed to (again) by the government in their Programme for Government published in October 2009, it seems that existing legislation is claimed to be the reason for the delay in delivering upon the commitment – that, and possibly the fact that the matter is not a high priority for the government. The government has consistently pointed to the Data Protection Act as the barrier to making publicly available details of private property. Whether property-related information is private could be a matter for dispute but even if it is, then how complex is it to amend the Data Protection Act? It is not as if we are re-introducing capital punishment or some other innovation that would place us at odds with the rest of Europe. We are the only developed state without a cadaster, a public record of who owns what, according to Emer O’Siuchru, valuer and architect.
So how is the working group, reported on by the Irish Times in March 2010, getting on with implementing the government commitment set out in their Programme for Government in October 2009? NAMAwinelake separately contacted each of the six members of the working group that was revealed by the Irish Times in March 2010, asking for details of data that will comprise the House Price Database and in relation to the working group terms of reference, timescales, funding and other support. You can see copies of the email and replies here – I have removed personal information. In summary the only one of the six to provide any meaningful reply was the DoEHLG and that reply firstly implied there wasn’t a formal group, but even if there was there was no information in respect of terms of reference, deadlines, support. That may be because there are no terms of reference or deadlines or it may be that the DoEHLG do not wish to make it public. I have passed the correspondence along to two of the Opposition deputies who have raised the House Price Index in the Dail in the past 6 months, Joan Burton of Labour and Olivia Mitchell of Fine Gael. NAMAwinelake is apolitical but it appears that it is the government that is dragging its heels with this matter. A copy of the correspondence is here.