On its late news program this evening RTÉ have a piece about the price of goods in certain shops in Ireland.  Some stores, such as M&S or Dunnes Stores, who operate both here and in the UK have dual Euro/Sterling price tags on their goods.  As we know, the value of Sterling versus the Euro has been falling recently and consumer groups, and RTÉ it would seem, fully expected that these stores would reduce the euro price of their goods as a result.  This has not happened and now Eamonn Gilmore and Consumer’s Association head Dermot Jewell are up in arms and the government is springing into action.  It seems that the Tánaiste is to meet with the head of The National Consumer Agency to discuss the matter.  Mr. Gilmore is demanding that the government do something to end these ‘rip-offs’.  RTÉ, in its report tonight, helpfully tells us by how much certain items in Dunnes and M&S are overpriced.

Overpriced according to whom?

As we all know, there is no statutory price control on sun-glasses and blouses in Ireland.  As there is an enormous amount of competition in the sun-glasses and blouses supply sector (a vital part of the economy, if RTÉ are to be taken seriously) I do not forsee any price controls being introduced any time soon.  Does Eamonn Gilmore really belive that, at a time when clothing has never been cheaper, the government will impose price controls?

I have no problem with the prices being charged by these stores.  They are in business to make money and if people are willing to pay the prices on the tags then they will continue to charge them.  When the prices of blouses and sunglasses reach an as yet unknown critical level people will stop buying them.

We can live without sun-glasses and we can live without an excess of blouses and jeans and t-shirts.  What we would find very difficult would be to live without gas and electricity.

The ESB is state owned and has a virtual monopoly on the supply of domestic electrical power in Ireland.  Domestic electricity prices have risen sharply in recent years, this despite the fact that the bulk of our power is produced in oil powered generating stations, oil which is purchased in US Dollars, a currency which has nose-dived against the Euro in the last twelve months.  The ESB also returns masive profits to the government every year.

Bord Gáis has a monopoly on domestic gas supply in Ireland.  Gas prices are rising sharply and Bord Gáis profits are rising just as sharply.  Bord Gáis is owned by the state.

If Eamonn Gilmore wants a ‘rip-off’ story to get his teeth into maybe he could look at the massive profits being generated by state companies charged with suppyling some of the basics of modern living – heat and light.

As Brian Cowen might say,  ‘We need to get a handle on this, will you ring those fuckers.’