A Crisis of Authority


The Household Charge, blustering arrogance and Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s fumbling.

A transcript of Olivia O’Leary’s radio ‘column‘ on last night’s Drivetime:

“I paid my household charge early last week. Just as well I did, because if I’d been listening to Big Phil blustering on the radio on Sunday, I might have been tempted not to. Almost all on his own, Hogan is fast generating for this Government what destroyed the last one – an air of bullying incompetence. It’s a crying shame because there was a really important job of political work to be done here – a widened tax base, which includes annual property taxes, is an essential reform and might have played an important part in dampening the property boom. The problem with introducing that reform is that Irish people have resisted property taxes fiercely for decades. They were bound to resist this one. So they needed to be firmly encouraged, exhorted, guided, given no excuse. Hogan has managed to give them every excuse.

First, he hasn’t got the information out. I didn’t get an information leaflet telling me how much or how to pay. I didn’t get a demand. Almost half the people I contacted for this column didn’t get one either. Was there a radio or television campaign? Seemingly they’ve had a radio ad in the last two weeks. I haven’t heard it. We’ve heard excuses about printing firms going bust and distribution firms not doing their job. Well, all I can say is, if it was Phil Hogan’s election campaign, he’d make sure by hook or by crook that there was a leaflet in every door. 

Secondly, he hasn’t made it easy to pay. Not everybody has a computer to pay online. You’ve got to go and collect the form if you want to post the payment. And what about paying at your county or city council offices? Well, a man on Joe Duffy today said when he tried to pay in council offices in Arklow he was told they had no facilities to accept payment.
Thirdly, because the minister hasn’t ensured that the information is out there lots of people are beginning to think that the Government isn’t serious. 
“I’m holding off until the very last minute because the Government might back off,” said one person to me this morning.
And where might people get that idea?
From Phil’s backing off on the Septic Tank Registration Charge, that’s where.
Fourthly, because the minister has allowed a general air of confusion to develop. Recalcitrance is growing. 
And the growing numbers are making people feel safer. One man said on the radio yesterday “They’ll bring us to court. Can they really bring 80% of us to court?”
It’s a disaster and this is what happens when a minister looks incompetent. He loses authority. People start to question what he says and Phil coming on the radio and blustering that he’ll hunt us all down through our electricity bills and gas bills’ doesn’t impress anyone.
He’s shown fatal weakness once on the Septic Tank issue and allowed Mattie McGrath to claim an easy victory. 
Indeed a raggle taggle group of Independent and Socialist deputies have done a better propaganda job on this issue using local meetings and local radio than has the minister and his Government with its massive majority and all its national might.
You know, people have been asking abroad about whether the great public backlash to austerity measures was going to come in Ireland? Why we weren’t marching in the streets?
Well, the streets isn’t really our tradition. We do things at local level, at parish meetings and local gatherings and this is where this particular battle is being fought and lost. This need not have been the protest issue around which a beleaguered people gathered. But Phil Hogan’s fumbling may make it so. 
Enda Kenny is, quite rightly, strutting his stuff on the biggest international stage [yesterday’s White House visit] there is today. And the man who helped to put him there Phil Hogan, is undermining the credibility of his Governmental home because he didn’t do his homework. If the Government doesn’t get a high enough level of compliance on this tax what happens to the graduated property tax to come in next year. and if it fails on this issue what happens to the referendum on the Fiscal Compact? What happens to the referendum on Children’s Rights?
There’s a crisis of authority happening here. A question mark over the Government’s already limited ability to govern.
Mr Kenny may need to look to his Cabinet and remove that question mark sooner than he thinks.”

Listen here.

26 thoughts on “A Crisis of Authority

  1. cross-eyed cow

    Olivia O’Leary is old Labour. She once bragged that she had canvassed for Conor Cruise O’Brien.

    She wants to deflect the flak from the household charge away from Labour, and RTE give her a platform to do it.

  2. Daithi

    Olivia O’Leary is usually excellent to listen to on drivetime.

    However, Joseph O’Connor has one annoying voice with those poems.

    1. Sean

      I really wish they’d take him off.

      He’s a one trick pony.
      He surely has used every possible rhyme for NAMA that exists in the English and any other language.

      Olivia is usually thought-provoking, whether you agree with her or not.

  3. Action Man

    ‘Well the streets isn’t really our tradition’

    Historically the Irish have never been great at revolution. It took the executions of the dedicated few in 1916 to sway public opinion and sow the seeds of success for the war of Independence.

    Regarding the household charge, it’ll probably take the jailing of a few non-payers before the public gets properly riled up to action.

    1. Fergd

      Ireland had a tradition of mass protest throughout the 19th century drawing hundreds of thousands of people to monster meetings on catholic emancipation, repeal of home rule, and most effectively, reform of land ownership.
      Anyway, apart from that, the fact is Hogan is a fat, useless prick, and is doing a dreadful job. He should be fired, but that may not happen…….

  4. Daithi

    Olivia O’Leary is excellent to listen to.

    But Joseph O’Connor has one annoying voice when he comes out with dem poems

    1. Justin

      Crudities. Crudités are traditional French appetizers comprising sliced or whole raw vegetables which are sometimes dipped in a vinaigrette or other dipping sauce, according to Wikipedia.

      mind you it’d be pretty mental if he mouthed appetizers at old ladies.

      1. Sido

        Justin – you pedant.
        What’s wrong with using a French word – when our government wants to be in the Heart of Europe?

  5. Steve

    Property taxes calculated in the correct way, with the proceeds being directed towards local services, should be introduced in Ireland. But not now, it should only be done when the domestic economy picks up and Ireland is out of recession and is growing again. It would have been better for the government introduced the household charge this year at a nominal charge of 1 euro so as to put the national database/systems in place.

    Id like to know from the people who disagree with the current charge, is it due to the level of it, the unfairness of it or is it just not wanting to pay tax? If its down to the unfairness/regressive nature of it, I agree, but if its simply not wanting to pay tax (at some point in the future when the economy is far stronger) then that aint right.

    1. Frilly Keane Inc

      I’ve stumped up the Household charge, but only in lieu of water rates.

      But if it converts into a Property Tax, never, and I’ll go to prison for it. I will not pay a property tax on my current residence.

    2. EMC

      Steve every country has their own tax models, and we are paying plenty in relative terms, there is no justification for a property tax other than gathering more money. At least there are environmental reasons for water charges.

  6. Steve

    EMC, I understand if you have a moral objection to paying a household charge/property tax but I’d advise you to stay clear of making comments like “we are paying plenty in relative terms” without backing it up.

    Even after the 2009 budget Ireland has still one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the EU27 at 28%. That figure would have needed to increase by 10% (or about 20 billion) in the last two years just to get us close to the EU27 average, never mind above it. Im pretty sure Budget 2010 and 2011 didnt raise an extra 20 billion in cash.


    But I’ll re-iterate, introducing the property tax now was wrong.

    1. EMC

      That average is brought up hugely by socialist Scandinavian countries who charge high tax for the specific purpose of providing excellent public services such as free child care, and a genuine universal health care and free education.

  7. Steve

    …which would leave one to assume that if Ireland raised its tax-intake in a number of years post-recession (like say through a property tax) the collected revenue could be used for the specific purpose of providing excellent public services such as free child care, and a genuine universal health care and free education.

    Which still doesnt make your point about ireland currenrly paying plenty of tax in relative terms correct.

    1. OscarTheFuzz

      That would be an extremely assumptive assumption … that money would go to servicing our massive debt in fairness … austerity is here to stay…

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