LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Posts Tagged ‘British Railways

Will the Citizen have access to the legal profession? Not if the Big Corporations have any say about it!

with 5 comments


I qualified as a solicitor in 1980. I had no connections in law at all and if it wasn’t for the endeavours of my late father, I couldn’t have pursued my legal studies. He worked hard to provide me with an education and without him and the support of my mother, I’d never have succeeded.

For the previous couple of years or so before qualifying, I had been influenced by Inge Clissmann and Aedan McGovern, both barristers and now Senior Counsel. Inge had got me involved with FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres which was run by law students who represented in Court, members of the public who couldn’t afford access to justice. Inge introduced me to the Ballymun Centre located in the basement of Padraig Pearse Tower, long since demolished. There we mainly dealt with family law issues and quite simply, we were overrun with the work. Overrun and indeed overawed. It has left an indelible impression upon me to this day. With little or nothing, the parents we dealt with, raised their families in the most trying of circumstances. At the end of the night, after seeing all those needing help, Inge would insist we retired to the Towers Pub to have a drink, one drink, so as to encourage those we had met to see that we were no different from them and could empathise with them. She was all too aware that lawyers were thought of as elitist and she was doing her part in showing everyone that we were not. She also was teaching us students about our social responsibilities and would not tolerate any bullshit from us. She encouraged talk and discussion and left her mark on us. I subsequently took over as Director of FLAC in Ballymun some time later. They were hard times but certainly gave us law students a social conscience which remains with us to this day. All this happened before our Government were forced to bring in Civil Legal Aid. During my career I have had the pleasure to act for those who ‘couldn’t afford a lawyer’. Pro bono work as it is now referred to.

 

The other influence on my career was my late father. While he was one of the ‘bosses’ in British Railways he was a solid Trade Unionist. He was also a devoted Roman Catholic with a great social conscience. He worked hard to look after us but instilled in me an outlook where people came first. It’s probably because of his example, that at an early stage after qualifying,  I made a decision to not act for Banks or Insurance Companies because I could not identify with the Profit at the expense of People dictate. I found many of their dealings with people to be disgusting and abhorrent. To this day my attitude has not changed.

 

I was lucky enough to be practising when the Competition Authority actions enabled solicitors to advertise. I took out a full-page in Golden Pages, advertising my Personal Injury Law Firm as well as having regular adverts air on RTE Radio. My firm expanded and I must say, I was delighted with the pro-people stance we took. We were a plaintiff firm, never acting for the defendant Insurance Companies. We were attacking the anti-people establishment and winning. Many other firms followed suit and people were being represented on a no-win no-fee basis. What other way could people access the law? This continued, or should I say was allowed to continue for only a moment in time. The Law Society among other interested groups were unhappy and pressurised the Government into making changes. Subsequently PIAB was formed to be a ‘lawyer free zone’ and were mandated with looking after all the injury cases from now on. Thankfully after come Court cases it is no longer a ‘lawyer-free’ zone but the setting up of The ‘Injuries Board’ has depleted the work carried out by High Street Solicitors, whose clients were people, not corporations. At the same time, the Law Society tightened up their advertising regulations and I was personally instructed to not call Early & Baldwin a Personal Injury Law Firm as this was ‘encouraging’ claims. And we are to this day prohibited from advertising that personal injury law is what we do. All this was done by the State in the interests of injured people we were told. Do not believe a word of it. For once, the lawyers who acted for the working man and woman were bringing their cases to Court and accessing ‘Justice’ for them. The Insurance lobby is very powerful, not unlike the Banks. They have great influence over Government, unlike the citizen who has little or no influence.

 

Currently there is outrage regarding the amounts the Insurance Industry are charging for renewal of motor policies. Us lawyers are of course being blamed by the Industry but many commentators are challenging this assertion. Remember that cases were heard before Juries until Government was lobbied by the Insurers who said that people could not be trusted. Then we had cases heard by Judges alone. This continued until the Insurance Industry said that Judges were awarding too much. Judges were halted and the Injuries Board was put in place to replace them. Now it’s only possible for your case to be heard before a Judge, if you’ve rejected the award made by the Injuries Board. All this change has been lobbied for and achieved by the Insurance Industry for their own benefit, not for the citizen. In fact the changes in the law were designed to deny the citizen access to the law by taking the high street solicitor out of the equation. Meanwhile the Big Law Firms still represent the Insurance Industry is all their guises. All this ‘reform’ of the law should be taken with a grain of salt. What had been achieved by young enthusiastic lawyers in getting access to the law for the ordinary man and woman, has now in effect been severely curtailed. This is quite alarming, but maybe not surprising. With the Corporation Tax obscenities and the control of Government by the Bankers, this is the logical conclusion. In future, they would hope, that access to the law was not for the ordinary citizen but solely the preserve of Big Law for their corporate clientelle.

 

LegalEagleStar Friday , 23rd. September, 2016

 

 

 

 

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 23, 2016 at 7:46 pm

The Real Tom Baldwin (1916-2000)

with 13 comments


 

If my father had lived, he would have been 100 years old today. Sadly we lost him in January 2000 after a routine operation went wrong. While I was angry at the surgeon, I blamed myself as I should have noticed his health deteriorating sooner. That fact I will have to live with.

Thomas Patrick Baldwin was born on Sept 8th, 1916 in Broughton Street, Dundalk. His dad was another Tom Baldwin, a plumber who was well-respected around the town. His mother was Catherine McGuinness whose father was a local publican just across from the Town Hall. He was a ‘middle child’. Brothers Billy and Bernie. Sisters Margaret and Mary Bridget (sadly died a teenager).He was an accomplished young goalkeeper and defender for junior team Norton Villa and then later with another legendary local team St Patricks. He was also a lifetime supporter of Dundalk F.C. His brother Billy also played locally and was another decent player and a bit of a legend I’m told.

Dad went to the local Christian Brothers before working with the B&I at the port. There he met his life long pal Jimmy McLoughlin. They both headed off to Belfast to work with the LMS in York Road Station. My father was very popular with his co-workers except around the ‘Glorious 12th’ when the Loyalists would, as he termed it ‘go mad’ for the month of July. That said, it seems they trusted him more than ‘their own’ as they’d get him to put the money on the dogs in Dunmore Park. One said ‘I trust you Tom I wouldn’t trust them fellas.’ Always a source of amusement to my Dad. He also had a great friend in Belfast, Paddy Manning who is also sadly deceased.

After a few years in Belfast, a city he loved, he moved to Dublin to join British Railways in Westmoreland Street. The Union said his time in Belfast would be counted for pension purposes. It wasn’t when the time came. Dad was a proud active trade unionist. He was a member of the Irish Transport & General Workers Union, ITGWU. He also supported the Labour Party until he became disillusioned with them in later life. He said too many chancers were using the union to further their political careers.

Dad married my Mum Hilda Clarke of St Kevins Road, South Circular Road in 1952 when he was 36. He always laughed and said he was cut off in his prime ! They only had one child, me, although my Mum wanted a football team, but only got the goalkeeper.

Throughout his life, my father was involved in trade unionism. He instilled values of fairness in me. He was deeply religious and practiced what he preached. Even when he was a senior manager in Sealink (Brit Rail) he went on strike on a matter of principle. He saw no compromise being one of the bosses and an active union member. He’d laugh when Head Office would send in Management Consultants to suggest changes. He treated them as though they were there to shut the company down. As he’d say, what the hell do they know about this business. They’ve shut down more places. Needless to say The manager of Brit Rail got away with nothing when my Dad was around !

He held people to account when need be and wasn’t shy to speak up. Prior to Christmas 1999 he attended a function in Jurys, Ballsbridge celebrating 50 years membership of the union which was now SIPTU. He told me that during the meal he noticed that the Top Table were being served wine, while the rest were not. My father took Bill Attley (Union Head) aside and asked him did he know the first thing about trade unionism. One for all etc. Attley I’m told, was not amused but subsequently wine was served to all tables. My father loved a glass of wine with his meal but on principle refused a glass. I told this story at his funeral a couple of months later and several SIPTU members confirmed the story and were disgusted with the way things were handled and the condescending way my father was treated.

After retirement I was lucky enough to have my father’s help in managing my legal practice. He was very popular with all the staff although he brought some of them to task. One young lady told me that ‘if Mr Baldwin gives out to you then you deserve it.’ I don’t think I ever commanded the same respect as he did. Well, he was the ‘Real Tom Baldwin’.

Happy Birthday Dad. Mum will be 90 next week !!

 

LegalEagleStar , September 8th. 2016

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 8, 2016 at 9:31 pm

%d bloggers like this: