Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us

Political World

Anger over property tax compounded by our national pastime for whingeing

Avatar

Published

on

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It could be 15 years ago that I was on a train from Galway to Dublin on a Sunday night – and somewhere between Clara and Nowhere, the locomotive broke leaving us all stranded for almost two hours as they waited for a replacement to arrive from Dublin.

Iarnród Éireann was going through one of its periodic ‘customer is king’ phases at the time. And as we finally neared Dublin some poor guy with a clipboard was dispatched to take note of the complaints.

And boy was he busy, as they gave graphic details of missed flights and the vital business appointments and the events they had missed, for which no money could compensate, but still they would take any compensation that was going.

I didn’t complain. Maybe I was jealous that I wasn’t important enough to be catching a business flight or that my presence wasn’t essential at some business conference. The most I was missing was probably Glenroe or the start of the Sunday Game or a dinner gone cold.

I must say I was suspicious at how many very important people were on the train with me.

My logical (or maybe cynical) side was saying: “Most of these people just want to whinge out loud.”

Despite the best efforts of ‘Ballyhea says No’ and Fintan O’Toole and all the left-wing parties, Irish people just haven’t done mass protests or riots or taken to the streets like the Greeks or the Spanish.

But what the Irish have attained world class status at is whinging. We take our medicine but boy do we moan about it. The preferred outlet isn’t a mass rally outside the Dáil on Kildare Street but via the telephone, or Joe Duffy or Sean O’Rourke or on Keith Finnegan or whatever.

And so it is with the property tax. There is genuine confusion and there are people who feel hard done by. But I can’t help feeling that there is a large element of whinging, people venting their general unhappiness, blowing something that is a a relatively small problem into the biggest crisis of confidence since the foundation of the State.

And so the first thing I’ll say about the property tax controversy as it related to early payments is that there has been a whinge factor. Perhaps a minority one, but it has been there nonetheless.

The way the property tax has happened has been very telling of the kind of society we have. It replaced the temporary household charge which was a bit of a fiasco.

Once the Revenue took over there was to be no messing. It shows the fear of God the Commissioners strike into people. Hopes by left-wing parties of mounting a popular boycott fell flat on its face.

Statistics show that of the 1.56 million homes registered for the tax, the compliance rate for this year (2013) has been over 90 per cent. From the start, they made it clear that those who did not pay would face the full panoply of sanctions available to Revenue for defaulters in other taxes.

Did the ploy work? Of course it did.

What the Revenue did do when they took over the administration of the tax was they asked for an extra six months to design the scheme. That meant there was a gap for the first six months this year when there was neither a household charge nor a property tax.

The upshot was that the new tax was kind of eased in – for only six months in 2013. It meant households only paid half the tax this year.

Politically, that was beneficial for the Government as well. They could introduce a very harsh new tax but gradually.

Looking through the statistics provided by Revenue for the first year of operation, a few things stand out like a sore thumb.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Best laid plans and programmes can fall foul of political reality

Avatar

Published

on

Debate snub...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If architects’ plans were like the Programme of Government,

  1. the country would be full of unfinished buildings
  2. that would look nothing like the plans.

Prospective governments spend weeks – and sleepless nights – working out the programme that will be the blueprint for their term of office.

Some even produce a glossy self-congratulatory report each year, showing how many of its targets have been achieved.

Two things need to be said about that:

  1. They are subjective.
  2. Nobody outside the bubble pays any attention to them.

Some set out ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government. That idea has been around since the 1930s and is designed to show a signal of intent, that the new Government is going to put its money where its mouth is.

More often than not the new regime learns to its cost that it has bitten off more than it can chew. Achieving something in the world of politics within 100 days is like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during a lunch break.

  1. Not exactly impossible
  2. But not exactly possible

And do governments learn from these mistakes? Do they realise that it is a bit of a ridiculous concept?

  1. No
  2. No

There is a political problem here. You might achieve the big things in politics, you might get a wobbly economy back on to an even keel, you might create a historic record for employment, you might push through the six referendums you promised to liberalise society.

But it’s a bit like the guy who earns a reputation for not buying a round. No matter if he has devoted his life to the service of others, and has sacrificed everything for the personal good.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

Avatar

Published

on

Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Biden brings normality back to world’s most powerful office

Avatar

Published

on

US President-elect Joe Biden celebrates his victory with his wife Jill and his Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

I did not want to make the same mistake I made four years ago. Then I stayed up until about 1.30am and it looked like it was going okay for Hillary Clinton in Florida. So I said to myself, that big buffoon is done for. When I woke up the next morning Donald Trump was the President of the United States. He had somehow managed to win Florida and dismantled the Blue Wall of Democrat States in the Mid-West by taking Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This time I stayed up until 4.30 in the morning. And that was a mistake too. For the picture was as unclear then as it was 12 hours later.

It was too close to call but already commentators were talking of a red mirage; most on-the-day voters plumped for Trump but early voters – whose votes were counted last – had steered very sharply towards Joe Biden.

It was historic. It’s really hard to knock out an incumbent president seeking a second term. It had been done only eight times before that in two and a half centuries.

Was it his inept handling of Covid-19? Had people grown sick of his vanity and his self-serving boasts? Did this natural disruption just cause too much turmoil and uncertainty in people’s lives? Did his partisan views, that red-mist madness, repel more than it attracted?

Well, the evidence is in the poll. The answer to all those questions is yes. To me, the outcome was clear. Biden won the popular votes. He also won the electoral colleges.

The majority was small and reflects a very divided society. Trump is the champion of rural, less educated, blue collar white, conservative, Hispanic and white America. Biden is popular among the middle classes, the urbanites, the better educated, and black voters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Local Ads

Local Ads

Advertisement

Weather

Weather Icon
Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending