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Anger over property tax compounded by our national pastime for whingeing

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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

Only sure thing in politics is nothing stays the same

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Galway in the 1950’s – how different is this to today.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

In less than a month’s time we will witness a first in Irish politics – the first instance of a Government which rotates its Taoiseach half way through the term.

It was due to happen on December 15, but it has been pushed back to allow Micheál Martin have his last hurrah – a final Summit in Brussels.

Then Leo Varakdar will come back for his second go – and if the Government lasts a full term, Varadkar’s two stints in the job will use about amount to one full term of five years.

It’s not the first time that a shared Taoiseach has been floated. Dick Spring suggested it to John Bruton in 1994. There was talk of Eamon Gilmore doing it with Enda Kenny before the 2011 general election. Enda Kenny suggested it to Micheál Martin in 2016.

Now it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we will see it in the Irish political context – because the political landscape has altered irrevocably.

A majority of voters in Ireland identified with one tribe or another during most of the 20th century. Memories of the revolution and civil war were still fresh. The parties both represented different sections of society (although there were big swatches of common ground). Ireland was rural, isolated, Catholic, conservative. Even in the 1980s, the two big parties still pulled 80 per cent plus of the vote.

We have a WhatsApp group from my class in the Jes in the 1980s. One of the lads recently posted an aerial photography of Galway taken in the the late 1950s. The city of Galway was nothing more than small town.

Shantalla was a new estate on the far outskirts. There was no Cathedral. Taylor’s Hill was hitting open countryside once you got past St Mary’s Terrace. There were open fields leading from Sea Road down to the shore.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Tackling shadowy spectre of gambling at long last

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Salthill's entertainment hot spot of the 1960s and 70s, Seapoint.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Salthill seafront was about a ten-minute walk from where we lived in Glenard when I was growing up. I can’t remember exactly when I started going to the amusement arcades but I was probably about 14.

At the time there were three or four along the so-called Golden Mile – Salthill Amusements near Western House; Claude Tofts casino in the middle of the drag, and the Silver Dollar, which was just before you turned for the Sacre Coeur Hotel. And then there was Seapoint.

The main attractions for us initially were the snooker tables upstairs in Salthill amusements, the roller disco on the Silver Dollar, and the teenage discos in the Captain’s Deck in Leisureland.

Mostly it was playing the video games – Space Invaders; Asteroids and Pacman. Yet no matter how absorbed you were with the games  you could not help noticing the other half of the arcade.

On that side there were battalions of one-armed bandits and poker machines. This was the early 1980s and I think it was about 10p a go. I think if you got one cherry on the right you won about 20p, and the amount of winnings went up especially if you got three bars in a row.

I’m not saying I never gambled on those machines. I did, although not too often. I remember having one big payout – I think it might have been £20. I was able to buy a ticket for the Dexy’s Midnight Runners concert in Seapoint.

It was July. Gino was actually number one in the charts that very week and all the Northerners were down in Salthill to escape the Orange marches.

We hung around the amusements a bit as teenagers. After a while, you began to recognise the regulars, the daily penitents. They would come in every afternoon and evening and spend hours sitting on a high school with a bucket of coins beside them, playing either the one-armed bandits or the poker machines.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

World’s politicians prefer cop-outs over COP-ins

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Michéal Martin...COP contributor.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

COP 27; it’s all the rage these days. Good cop? Bad cop? Fair cop? In actual fact, COP stands for Conference of Parties. It’s the United Nations Climate Change Conference; it more or less meets every year and involves most leaders of 197 nations peppered around the globe.

The talks focus on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), an agreement to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent human-generated interference to the world’s climate system.

So every year, leaders discuss and try to reach agreement on the best ways to limit – or reduce – global temperatures and to cut emissions from fossil fuels and from human industry and activity.

COP 1 was held in Berlin in 1995. What’s happening in Egypt this week and next is the 27th meeting of world leaders on climate change.

I have attended two COPs: COP 15 in in 2009; and COP 21 in 2015.

COP 15 was held at the end of November and beginning of December in Copenhagen. I was added to the reporting ticket and booked my accommodation at the last minute. I managed to secure a room the size of a generous coffin (and it felt like one too) at the price of the Paris Ritz.

My biggest thrill there were seeing Barack Obama in the flesh as he passed by me in the hall – surrounded by a retinue of secret service agents. I also had the briefest of forgettable chats with Thom Yorke, the lead singer with Radiohead who has a huge interest in the issue.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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.

 

 

 

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