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False link between local services and house charge non-payment

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Date Published: 08-Aug-2012

 IT possibly comes as no surprise to many people that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local government would stoop to engage in a propaganda exercise at some point in 2012 to bolster its argument that local services in this country would suffer from a funding crisis, if householders did not pony-up the €160 million in Household Charges.

This propaganda exercise aired in the local media recently, suggests that Galway County Council, among others will be ‘forced’ by the government to cut funding to a number of local programmes, due to a proportion of householders withholding payment of the charge. This myth needs to be challenged.

It certainly may be the case that the Department is cutting funding to Local Authorities, but for it to state that cuts to services must happen because of the non-payment of all or part of each Council’s share of the Household Charge, is completely disingenuous.

Are they really telling us that, for example, housing grants for elderly and disabled people will be suspended? Or that the fire Service, litter control, housing and road maintenance will be affected?

Let’s not forget, it is the government which has linked this household charge to the funding of local services.

When one considers how unequal our tax system in this country is, this base propaganda becomes easily transparent. Credit Suisse, (Global Wealth Report – November 2011) reported that financial assets in Ireland make up 47 percent of total assets.

This means that out of €662 billion in total assets, using the latest CSO data, €311 billion is in financial assets and €351 billion is in non-financial assets. After financial liabilities of €194 billion, total net wealth is €468 billion. The wealthiest 1 percent holds €131.5billion in net assets and the wealthiest 5 percent holds €219.3 billion. Not a cent in wealth tax is being paid on these assets.

Every 1 percent tax on the wealthiest 5 percent of people in Ireland would bring in approximately €2 billion p.a. and a 5 percent tax would bring in €10 billion p.a.

In 2010, those earning over €100,000 p.a. earned approximately €20 billion and paid €4.86 billion in income tax, or just 24.3 percent of their gross income.

Because of the massive tax relief enjoyed by high earners, the use of minimum effective tax rates is a sure means of extracting additional tax from high earners.

This would require a scale of minimum effective tax rates on all income ranging from the current level of 30% as incomes exceed thresholds of €100,000, €150,000, €200,000 etc. The minimum effective rates may have to be as high as 60% for those earning above €300,000. There should be no increase in the effective tax rates of those with gross incomes below €100,000 p.a.

Through a combination of increased minimum effective tax rates and higher marginal tax rates, an extra €5 billion p.a. could be collected from those earning above €100,000 p.a.

There is wealth in abundance in this country, but not any political willpower to tap into its obvious potential to fund local services among other things. I suspect this FG⁄Labour government will continue to parade its propaganda in front of us pretending that the country is really broke, and that the burden of local services funding will have to be borne by those already blighted by unemployment, the Universal Social Charge and VAT increases etc.

In addition, the household Charge and the proposed property Tax take no account of whether a householder is unemployed, on a low income or has a high mortgage. Let’s open our eyes and not allow this pretence to succeed.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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