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Nasty Foretaste

In European Union, Household Charge, politics on March 31, 2012 at 09:26

Some medicines can leave a nasty aftertaste, but when it comes to the tactics of the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan and his government’s threats against people refusing to pay the unjust Household Charge, one could say they leave a nasty foretaste.

Because the dire threats against non-payers by Big Phil and his colleagues will be as nothing as to what voters who are opposed to or skepitcal of the Fiscal Treaty will hear in the run-up to the Irish referendum on that pact on May 31st.

With the Household Charge it was threats of court, surcharges, knocks on the door from council officials and the use of databases held by public utilities that were deployed to frighten people into paying.  And terrify it did for those who didn’t see through it.  Possibly the most jaw-dropping example was the front page story on Cork’s Evening Echo newspaper witha stark photo of Cork’s City Manager Tim Lucey and his County Council counterpart Martin Riordan looking like two mafia hitmen and with the dire headline “We’re coming for you!”  Of course a day or two later the paper carried an apology at the request of Mr. Lucey.  The paper had overstated the element of threat he claimed, and anyway he was “only doing his job”.    Whether intended or not the article did terrify some people, and paritcularly elderly people.    Of course with others it simply backfired and this type of in-your-face bullying simply strengthened their resolve to boycott the charge.

We're coming for you

The big threat

Now that the deadline is past the government has been left with a bloody nose.  The next round could be bloodier as they try to force through the Fiscal Treaty.   The referendum campaign could be the dirtiest since the abortion referendums of the 1980s and it is clear that the government are preparing to pull out all the stops to push this through whether the people want it or not.   The late, unlamented bully and car manufacturer Henry Ford once had a saying about his cars, “Any colour as long as it’s black”.  The government’s motto and that of its allies in Fianna Fáil, the EU, IMF and ECB will be “Any answer as long at it is Yes” to the referendum.

The million people who refused to be buillied and boycotted the Household Charge can take heart.  So can those who paid up under extreme duress and so can the 200,000 householders who were exempt this year but will almost certainly not escape when water charges are introduced.   They can all take heart at the defeat of the government in Round 1, but they must now regroup and get stronger because Round 2 is fast approaching.   The coalition are on the ropes, they are bloodied, let’s take the fight to them and make the referendum on the Fiscal Treaty a Total Knockout.

Damning evidence, but no actual damnation

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2012 at 12:54

The publication of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal took place yesterday (22 Mar 2012) amidst a media circus which waited eagerly for the low-down on the corruption that took place in the planning process in Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s.    The circus is now down to its last few acts and the clowns are out with their size 18 shoes blowing their trumpets and making general asses of themselves.

The Tribunal Report is an enormous document consisting of 3,270 pages divided into seven separate volumes. It would make a trained solicitor wince to have to delve through it and digest its full import – if it was ever possible to do that. For ordinary people the findings have been boiled down to a dozen or so key findings.  These are (as gleaned from RTÉ’s website:http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/0322/mahontribunal_keyfindings.html ) that:

  • Former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was “untruthful” and failed to explain the source of IR£165,000 (about €210,000) into bank accounts connected to him.
  • Former government minister and EU commissioner Padraig Flynn wrongly and corruptly sought donations from property developer Tom Gilmartin
  • Former Fianna Fáil TD and Trilateral Commission member Liam Lawlor accepted inappropriate and corrupt payments from Arlington PLC and that his involvement with landowners/developers had rendered him “hopelessly compromised”
  • Cork based property developer Owen O’Callaghan paid IR£1.8 million (€2.3 million) to former Fianna Fáil and government Press Secretary Frank Dunlop over 10 years and that part of this money were used for the purposes of making corrupt payments to councillors in respect of the Quarryvale development.
  • Former Fianna Fáil TD GV Wright received corrupt payments of IR£50,000 from developer Christopher Jones

The Tribunal is over and the real question now is whether its report will simply join the dozen or so other expensive tribunal reports of the 1980s and ’90s causing more shelves to creak under the sheer weight of their heavy volumes or whether something will happen to ensure that what has been uncovered can never be repeated.   After previous tribunals there were some legal changes and promises that things would be different but the evidence of this is hard to find.  It was the same type of culture that caused the present economic collapse in this country and the austerity that is causing real pain for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families in this country.   It was that type of cosy relationship between building developers, banks, planners and people at the highest echelons of government that allowed the economy to overheat, to allow the signs of danger to be ignore and the same arrogance in government that allowed the decision to bail out the banks and to place the immense burden of their self-inflicted debts onto the shoulders of the Irish working class.   As usual, the evidence is damning, there is a whole arsenal of smoking guns but apart from a media circus and finger pointing nothing changes.   Only the people can cause real change and that will have to be at a higher level than simply rotating Taoisaigh.  Power must be vested in the people and governments must be constantly reminded that they are merely the administrators of the people’s will, not oligarichal overlords.

Fanfare or Funfair – Fine Gael gets egg on face

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2012 at 08:28

Yesterday Fine Gael hastily cancelled a press conference in which they were going to put forward the first anniversary of their term in goverment with a celebration of sorts.  Then Labour Party minister Pat Rabbitte came on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland and called his coalition partner’s event “silly” and Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was listening to Rabbitte as he was having his cornflakes, called the whole event off.

The debacle reminded me a bit of a mishap on BBC radio during the Second World War in which the King of Norway, Haakon II, was to give an address to his country, which had just been occupied by Germany with the help of the traitor Vidkun Quisling.  The BBC director told staff to introduce King Haakon with suitably solemn music or perhaps a fanfare.  So they sent down to the sound library with a request for a recording of a fanfare – you know the kind of thing, trumpets and drums.  Unfortunately there was a slip of the pen or tongue between the studio and sound library and they were sent back a recording of a funfair by mistake.  Even more unfortunately, nobody bothered to check that the right recording had been sent.  So as the King of Norway cleared his throat and prepared to address his beleagured nation the drum roll began, followed by “Roll up, roll up, join the fun of the fair” accompanied with roaring elephants, tigers and whimsical sounds of clowns, monkeys and laughter.

At least some anonymous sound engineer at the BBC could be blamed for what happened King Haakon’s address to the nation, but the Fine Gael non-event of yesterday can only be blamed on the Fine Gael handlers, including the advisors  whom the Irish taxpayers are paying handsomely.   So as Labour and Fine Gael try to put a gaudy gloss on their first year in office, optics and charades continue to take the place of action as the new government begins to look more and more like the old.

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