Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
I SPENT the majority of last Tuesday night pissing off most of our local politicians. I had just come from a very well documented Local Property Tax meeting, which I hope I have explained sufficiently in the main paper, and I was genuinely put out by the level of spin that all of the politicians were engaging in afterwards.
Before I begin this column, it’s probably important to outline my own political affiliations – I don’t have any. As I said to Deputy David Cullinane last week, I’m an equal opportunities caller out of ‘bullshit’. Minister John Halligan once accused me of being a Sinn Fein supporter. The Sinn Fein supporters and members accuse me of being a Fianna Fáil supporter, and the Fianna Fáil supporters have accused me – more than once – of being anti-Fianna Fáil. This is exactly how a journalist should be. They shouldn’t have a political affiliation but if they do, you shouldn’t know what it is.
For what it’s worth, I think politicians should be judged on their individual merits. David Cullinane came very close to topping the polls in the last General Election and he did so because people who wouldn’t usually vote for Sinn Fein, voted for him. They liked that he was a hard worker and genuinely had the interests of Waterford at heart. It doesn’t stop them from saying that they “wish he was from a different party” though.
The biggest reason that I can think of, why this country is like a cement mixer of shite (apologies for the unusual levels of profanity in this week’s column), is because we don’t put enough consideration into who we vote for. The people who vote for the same party, year in year out, regardless of how shocking the candidate is, are the people that are killing this country. If you are a person who votes for a certain person, even though you know very little about them except for the political colour of their shirt, then I have absolutely no respect for you. This is one of the main reasons why I think 16 and 17 year olds should be allowed to vote. They will interrogate a politician and make their mind up based on their responses.
In parts of this county, there are people who will vote for you just because you bothered to knock on their door and have a cup of tea with them. “The other fella didn’t even bother to call over to us… have a bit of my wife’s tea-brack there… and don’t worry about this house, there’s four votes here for ya.” That useless politician did nothing except knock on their door and plámás them, and he came away with a load of votes.
I recently met a gentleman, who will remain nameless but many people will know who he is. He told me that he was a close friend of Austin Deasy back in the day, and that’s why he has always supported his son John. I asked him, to his face, was there any other reason he could think of for voting for John Deasy and the answer he gave me was ‘no’. I told him straight out that he, and others like him, were the reason why this country was in the state that it’s in. I think he actually agreed with me.
At last Tuesday’s Local Property Tax meeting, the new pact of Sinn Fein, Green Party, Labour and all independents except for that interesting character known as Seamus O’Donnell, had to make their first difficult decision. Every year before the LPT meeting, the Chief Executive meets with the pact to try and get a flavour of how they will vote. He outlines the budgetary reasons why he will be requesting an increase and they are left in no doubt leaving that meeting that if they attempt to pass anything other than an increase, they’ll feel his wrath in the months ahead. It’s never a good thing for a councillor to get on the wrong side of the Chief.
So, Sinn Fein, who have been criticising the Local Property Tax from day one and getting on their high horse every single time FF/FG raise it, suddenly have to do it themselves. And that’s where the spin begins. Regardless of what any Sinn Fein, Green Party, Labour or Independent Councillor says to you, the new alliance voted to raise the property tax. Their line that they kept it as it was is ridiculous for two reasons: 1. When they sat down at that meeting last night, the LPT had returned to its base level of 0.18%. If the meeting didn’t take place, or if no councillor proposed a change, the LPT would have remained at 0.18%; 2.5% less than what it was last year. However, they did vote to change it, and even though the change was still the same as last year, it was an increase. 2. Sinn Fein have been saying for years that they’d like to abolish the LPT. And yet, with their first flirtation with power, with an opportunity to decrease it, they actually increased it. Spin it any way you want lads, but those are the facts.
And then we have Fianna Fáil and Fianna Gail – the Chuckle Brothers of the Irish political system. They too had an opportunity, which everyone in the room knew they weren’t going to take. They could have proposed to keep the LPT as it was (0.18%), and still left it to Sinn Fein and Friends to propose the inevitable increase. To propose a 5% decrease was insulting the intelligence of everyone in the room. The world and its mother knows that they only proposed it because they knew that it wouldn’t pass. Sadly for their own integrity, it went against everything they said last year, and also what they fundamentally believe in, which is a healthy tax system that funds our local authorities. And they did it all, just to have a very public poke at Sinn Fein.
Is it any wonder why people have no faith in politics.