Consumers’ group members resign – The Irish Times 22/11/2008

THREE LEADING members of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland have resigned in a row over policy issues and internal operations.

The three, Diarmuid MacShane, Mel Gannon and Enid O’Dowd, were all members of the association’s council and had raised their concerns about the running of the organisation at recent meetings.

They had also called for fees payable to association representatives on other bodies to be passed to the organisation itself rather than the individuals themselves. However, they were outvoted by other council members.

Mr MacShane, who operates a consumer website, ValueIreland.com, said he had resigned because the association was not working effectively on behalf of consumers.

“They aren’t doing anything. They’re a magazine publisher rather than a consumer advocate, producing soundbites for the media but no initiatives.”

He also criticised the flow of information within the organisation and claimed it had taken almost a year to get a list of association representatives on outside bodies.

The association’s chairman, James Doorley, rejected Mr MacShane’s criticisms.

“As a small NGO, we’re doing as much as we can to represent consumers. I’m not claiming we’re perfect.

“Given that we have limited financial resources we have to focus on certain issues,” Mr Doorley said.

Membership of the Consumers Association of Ireland, which is effected by subscribing to its magazine, Consumer Choice, has halved in the past decade, to about 5,000.

Its €700,000 annual turnover compares to the €10 million budget of the State-run National Consumer Agency.

This includes a grant of €66,000 from the Department of Enterprise and Employment.

The latest accounts, described by the council as disappointing, record a loss of €41,000. They also show that CAI members were paid a total of more than €50,000 in return for representing the association on outside bodies.

Mr Gannon and Ms O’Dowd ran for chair and treasurer respectively in previous years but were unsuccessful.

Paul Cullen

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