Garret FitzGerald Lecture and Autumn School

UCD College of Social Sciences and Law will host the Garret FitzGerald Lecture and Autumn School on Monday 19th October, in the UCD Sutherland School of Law. The daytime School (from midday) will focus on the significance of the social sciences. The evening Lecture will be delivered by Professor Cass R Sunstein,Harvard Law School, on the theme ‘Is Behavioural Science Compatible with Democracy?’. More details and bookings here.

Priority for Better Regulation in Junckers Commission

The nominees for, and configuration of, the portfolios in the European Commission named by Jean-Claude Junckers this week gives some hint  of the priorities in European governance over coming years. In this context we might ask how significant is it that Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans has been nominated as First Vice President with responsibilities to include Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights? At first glance this portfolio appears to reflect procedural rather than substantive concerns for the new Commission. The mission letter from President-Elect Junckers suggests that the brief is one which crosses the concerns of all the other portfolios indicating a recognition of the link between process and performance on key issues such as regulation.

Responding to Regulatory Change – Financial Services Seminar

UCD Sutherland School of Law is hosting a morning seminar in the IFSC, 14th November, 8-10.30am, on opportunities and challenges for  Ireland’s financial services sector. Justin O’Brien, Visiting Professor at UCD Sutherland School of Law, will address key issues facing Ireland’s financial services sector including, regulatory engagement – problems and perspectives, regulating culture – the rationale for intervention and nurturing a world-class regulatory environment in Dublin. Justin O’Brien is a Professor and Director of the Centre for Law, Markets & Regulation in the University of New South Wales. He has written many books on the subject including his most recently published Integrity, Risk and Accountability in Capital Markets – Regulating Culture (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2013), Engineering a Financial Bloodbath (London: Imperial College Press, 2009) and Redesigning Financial Regulation: The Politics of Enforcement (Chichester: Wiley, 2007). Details and bookings at,187039,en.html

Public Lecture on Regulatory Purpose and the Rationale for Intervention in Capital Markets

Professor Justin O’Brien, University of New South Wales,  will give a public lecture Back to the Future: James M. Landis,  Regulatory Purpose and the Rationale for Intervention in Capital Markets on Monday 28th January at 6pm, in Newman House, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2. This lecture addresses contemporary problems of regulatory design through exploring the history of financial markets regulation. Attendance is free but booking is required at,159217,en.html.

Learning from Failure: NESC Report on Regulating Residential Care for Older People

Policy failures often lead to regulatory reform. In a pathbreaking new study the National Economic and Social Council have published their evaluation of the regulatory regime over residential care homes for the elderly in Ireland, examining closely the regime put in place following the Leas Cross scandal of 2005. Serious failings both of provision and oversight at Leas Cross, uncovered in a RTE Prime Time investigation, led to considerable soul searching about the care of the elderly, and the establishment of a new independent regulator, the Health Information and Quality Authority.

The report makes for very interesting reading. Substantively it finds evidence of demanding standards being effectively applied both by providers across public, private and voluntary sectors, and by the regulator. It provides pointers as to how the regime might be further enhanced, but notes that confidence in the sector has already been significantly enhanced.  Of greater general signficance is an approach to the research which asks to what extent there is evidence of a search for continous improvement both in provision and regulation of services. Within this analysis regulation is no longer a zero sum game of government imposing costs on businesses. Rather it is a shared process of learning about what can and should be done.

The report is one of a number of reports which NESC is publishing on the regulation of human services in Ireland. Taken together they are likely to offer a sea change in the evaulation of regulatory governance, creating expectations that regulators should be responsive and smart and above all capable both of learning and supporting the learning of regulatees. The approach, developed from cutting edge regulatory research internationally, could usefully be applied across both economic and social regulation as starting point for effectively evaluating regulatory performance.

Irish Governance in Crisis

In a piece in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post my colleague Dr Niamh Hardiman  makes a plea for better understanding of the roots of our current crisis in weaknesses in governance institutions. Such an understanding is a precondition for effective reform. She addresses weaknesses in parliamentary scrutiny, the capacity of the civil service for appropriate engagement over policy making, and the effectiveness of the public service itself. She highlights institutional explanations for tendencies for public policy to favour sectional interests, but argues that understanding the institutional weaknesses is the key to addressing them. The article is behind a paywall, but a fuller, multi-author examination of the issues is available in a book arising from a UCD project on governance, Irish Governance in Crisis, edited by Niamh Hardiman (Manchester University Press, 2012).

Failure to Regulate Regulation Could Prove Costly

My opinion piece in today’s Irish Times points out that the disbanding of the Better Regulation Unit in the Department of the Taoiseach risks reducing the capacity for effective oversight of regulatory institutions and strategies and for learning about and acting on regulatory successes and failures elsewhere in the OECD member states. A fuller policy brief on the topic, “W(h)ither Better Regulation?” is available here.

I hope there is no problem about my linking to the article I wrote.