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Is it insulting?

During the week I wrote a post on an article Kevin Myers’ wrote in the Irish Times. Originally I was somewhat shocked by the nature of the article, and wrote a post criticising the logical leaps and outright nonsense in the piece.

But the more I read the article the more I am angered by it. Myers is making some very serious statements. Out of curiosity I looked up the terms of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. Here is the quote from the Statute Books, its definition of hatred is:

“hatred” means hatred against a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation;

The terms are:

It shall be an offence for a person—
( a ) to publish or distribute written material,
( b ) to use words, behave or display written material—
(i) in any place other than inside a private residence, or
(ii) inside a private residence so that the words, behaviour or material are heard or seen by persons outside the residence,
( c ) to distribute, show or play a recording of visual images or sounds,
if the written material, words, behaviour, visual images or sounds, as the case may be, are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred.

Is what Myers says “threatening, abusive or insulting” and “likely to stir up hatred”. I would say, at the very least, the words could be construed as insulting. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly Myers does say. I will highlighted sentences I believe to be abusive or insulting – either to a religion or group of people – and could certainly not be hyperbole.

Phrases such as “mealy-mouthed evasions and vapid pieties”, “the reactionary, learn-nothing left” are typical Myers polemic, that really add nothing to the argument – in fact having to insult the other side is a typical sign of losing the argument. Myers often resorts to insults, it takes away from any point he is trying to make. He goes on:

Now, finally, life has been good to us. So what kind of Ireland do we want in 50 years? Go back half-a-century and ask the people in Britain what they envisaged for their country. Who in 1954 would have thought that by 2004 places such as Burnley, Bradford, Preston, Huddersfield, would be nearly 50 per cent Muslim, as they now are? No one; indeed, even to have suggested such a possibility then, or over the next 20 years, would have invited the wrath of the ideologically pro-immigration left, with righteous denunciations of scaremongering racism.

What is Myers actually saying here? Is he saying that towns of nearly 50% Muslims are a bad thing? Is he saying that it is a goof thing? Neither really, but he makes a point later on that indicates something else.

Comparable demographics apply across much of mainland Europe, where there has been a rise of virulent anti-Semitism, largely centred within the immigrant Muslim communities.

So Muslims in Europe are largely to blame for anti-Semitism? Firstly is that true, and secondly is there not also a rise in anti-muslim sentiment within right-wing groups in Europe?

Nor is the issue solely one of importing the virus of anti-Semitism through the millions of Islamic immigrants. Muslim communities in Britain have so far produced three suicide bombers and 1200 volunteers for Taliban/Al-Qeada terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Moreover, in an opinion poll last year, 13 per cent of British Muslims said they supported the 9/11 attacks.

I actually believe that poll was done this year, but I’ll check it out. It is curious but 87% of Muslims did not support the attacks. And in polls such as that, I would imagine many people would say they supported the attacks – but would never actually physically do anything in support of them. So actually one could say that the vast majority of Muslims did not support the attacks – the same being through of non-Muslims.

Now I think we can reach the crux of Myer’s argument.

So, more immigrants, more diversity, will make Ireland a more interesting place. Good. We agree on that. But steady there. Who actually wants Athlone or Portlaoise, 50 years hence, to be what Preston, Bradford, Huddersfield are now? What happens if the children of immigrants insist on retaining the cultural norms of their parents’ homeland? Where stands multiculturalism when an immigrant culture demands the right to slice off teenage girls’ vulvas? Or insists on arranged marriages in childhood? Or the honour-killing of daughters who do not do their fathers’ bidding? Racism! This will never happen here! Will it not?

There it is. What he is actually saying is “who wants Muslims living in Irish towns”. In fact he is saying who wants Muslims in Ireland – period. Then he asks “what happens if the Muslims who come here behave like Musims”. By phrasing his sentences in the form of questions he is avoiding stating what he might actually believe – that he does not want towns where 50% of the population are Muslims. Is that a racist comment? Is it “likely to stir up hatred”? It could be argued that such sentiment might stir up hatred of Muslims and Muslim communities. It also demonstrates something else – fear.

To his conclusion, where he attempts to qualify his questionable remarks on Muslim communities, by saying:

No doubt, most Muslims will be what most Muslims are today – hard-working and law-abiding, and will be a cultural and intellectual asset.

Most Muslims did not support 9/11. If what Myers says here is true, then I really don’t know why he is so fearful of Muslims. Are the Muslims he talks about here the same Muslims that will keep their ‘cultural norms’, i.e. Islam, and ask for halal meet in the local butcher?

What’s the crux here? He appears to be saying that he does want Muslims in, then he doesn’t, then he only wants some, but not the unsavoury part. Yes we love Muslims, but we don’t want the suicide bombers.

Dick O’Brien pointed out that the same argument could be applied to Irish communites in Britain over the last few decades. A fringe element were bombers, intent on destruction, while the rest were “hard-working”. And they brought with them strange customs, at least strange to the Protestant majority, of believing virgin births and magical transformations of wine and bread into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

So how to sum up? Myers says

a) Do we want Muslims in Ireland in 50 years?
b) Muslims bring strange customs and beliefs, should we let them in?
c) Some Muslims will be fundamentalist
d) The customs of Muslims, such as arranged marriages, mean that immigration to Britain is now “unstoppable”.
e) We must stop people coming into Ireland, even though most genuinely want to work
f) In 50 years Irish Muslims might be fundamentalist

Perhaps the correct authority could decide on whether Myers’ article falls into the category of inciting hatred.

McCreevy and AIB

All my Irish readers will be aware of the recent scandal involving our beloved bank AIB. In short they ‘mistakenly’ overcharged foreign exhange transaction customers by 100%.

Yes you read it right, instead of the agreed 0.5%, they instead charged 1.0%. Accidentally. For a decade. They also had to check that they were charging the correct amount, under the then regulator, the Director of Consumer Affairs. They checked, apparently, and still said everything was hunky dory. It wasn’t.

Thanks only to a whistleblower, we now know that they were overcharging.

And so to the reaction of our Finance Minister, Charlie McCreevy. He loves AIB I think. In a report in the Irish Times, it is noted that the new powers to be given to the IFSRA actually amount to very little. Here is an exerpt of the report.

Outlining the sanctions that a regulatory authority can impose on a financial institution, Mr McCreevy said the authority “may agree with a financial institution that the institution should pay an appropriate penalty, not necessarily requiring the institution to formally acknowledge its guilt”.

Am I reading that correctly? So the regulator sits down for tea with the bank and a bit of a chat. “Pay the fine lads” , “but remember you don’t have to admit you are guilty”. Could that even be defined as regulation? Are we the only country in the world to treat our banks as if they are bastions of virtue? The report continues:

Where an institution admits it has “committed a contravention, the authority can agree an appropriate penalty with that institution without going through a formal inquiry process.” If either side does not wish to avail of these options, “there is provision for a formal inquiry by the authority leading to a formal determination”.

So there is no inquiry either? The banks must be loving this, who have they employed to lobby the government? He must be a bloody genius. It’s not actually regulation at all, it seems to be a series of gentlemanly agreements between the ‘regulator’ and the bank.

I believe in other countries, where a bank has been found to be doing what AIB was doing, the regulator decided not to begin working with the bank to correct the ‘mistake’, but instead shut down all of the banks activities in that area – i.e. foreign exchange – until such time as it was satisfied that the situation had been corrected.

Of course this is Ireland. We do things differently here.

Is Kevin Myers making sense?

Kevin Myers is a man I have read on and off for a number of years now. Reading him today I am increasingly of the belief that he is losing the run of himself. September 11 marked a turning point in his writing, he recently disagreed with Mark Steyn, and was accused of losing his right wing edge.

But his most recently article seems to stand out – I think it’s just total, unadulterated tripe. Why does he feel the constant need for attacks on groups “the reactionary, learn-nothing left” to support his argument? Is that the only way he can make argument? And can they even be defined as arguments?

Here he is at full bluster:

Marvellous, utterly marvellous, to see the present immigration debate – if you can dignify such a festival of mealy-mouthed evasions and vapid pieties with such a term – following the predictable lines of other European societies which experienced immigration a generation ago.

Once again, the reactionary, learn-nothing left has brandished the r-word at people who urge restrictions on immigration into Ireland; for within liberal culture, calling any opponents “racists” instantly wins every argument, regardless of what they are really saying.

Now, finally, life has been good to us. So what kind of Ireland do we want in 50 years? Go back half-a-century and ask the people in Britain what they envisaged for their country. Who in 1954 would have thought that by 2004 places such as Burnley, Bradford, Preston, Huddersfield, would be nearly 50 per cent Muslim, as they now are? No one; indeed, even to have suggested such a possibility then, or over the next 20 years, would have invited the wrath of the ideologically pro-immigration left, with righteous denunciations of scaremongering racism.

Now, this is not (a) funny, or (b) talked about – barely at all in Britain, and absolutely not in Ireland, where we are told to be bewitched by the imminent multicultural splendours ahead. So we don’t discuss the complexities and the consequences of immigration, but instead waffle on (in Irish Times-reading circles especially) about the glorious benefits of immigration.

Are we even on the same planet? Where is he getting this stuff from? Who would have thought these places would nearly 50% Muslim? Who cares? I’ve been to Yorkshire, and Huddersfield, and yes there many Muslims, but does it bother me? Of couse not. Does it bother the other percentage of residents? Not in my experience. What’s the big deal Kevin? Because no one envisaged it does not mean it’s a bad thing.

Yes it is talked about in Britain, and yes more so than it is here. Myers is bemoaning that we don’t discuss the “complexities and the consequences of immigration”. I don’t see Myers discussing it at all, he just seems to think “stop them coming in and we won’t have to think about it”.

He continues:

So, more immigrants, more diversity, will make Ireland a more interesting place. Good. We agree on that. But steady there. Who actually wants Athlone or Portlaoise, 50 years hence, to be what Preston, Bradford, Huddersfield are now? What happens if the children of immigrants insist on retaining the cultural norms of their parents’ homeland? Where stands multiculturalism when an immigrant culture demands the right to slice off teenage girls’ vulvas? Or insists on arranged marriages in childhood? Or the honour-killing of daughters who do not do their fathers’ bidding? Racism! This will never happen here! Will it not?

Weakness, inertia, liberal smugness and abject political cowardice allowed an army of self-styled “asylum-seekers” to drive a coach and four through the dismal charade of our immigration controls. As it happens, most of those who bluffed their way in genuinely seem to want to work – so good luck to them; but such easy-going days must, emphatically, now be over.

For what about the Ireland we bequeath to the unborn? Have we the courage now to discuss the Islamic component in Ireland 2054? No doubt, most Muslims will be what most Muslims are today – hard-working and law-abiding, and will be a cultural and intellectual asset. But what of those jihadistas who in life and limb are loyal to holy war, and who seem to be present on the wilder shores of almost all Islamic societies, yearning for the martyrs’ paradise beyond? What value our liberal immigration policies today if the price for our grandchildren tomorrow is such fine fellows, Irishmen with Irish accents, preaching the virtues of the suicide bomber against the infidel, in a mosque which was once a Catholic church?

Not only is he on another planet, he’s just reached another galaxy. After complaining that some towns in the UK are nearly 50% Muslim (so what?), he asks if we want Athlone or Portlaoise to be akin to them? It wouldn’t bother me at all Kevin. And then he asks all the questions – scaremongering I would say. All of these issues have been fairly expertly handled across the water – where they have 50 years of experience of it, while we on the other hand, are just starting out.

The final paragraph is just balderdash, though I could use stronger words. Kevin, Muslims will be coming to Ireland. They will live, work and worship here. What’s the problem with that? What he doesn’t seem to realise is that he is using the very same language that was common in the UK 50 years ago, but hey, they got over it and moved on. We will have to too, and no amount of immigration policies will stop it – why? Because we aspire to be an open and democratic society. And that means it comes with the territory.

And what’s this about a mosque that was once a Catholic Church? Ohhh, scary! What an image! Please, Mr. Myers, think about it for a moment.

A classic Fianna Fail scheme: Fintan O'Toole

Fintan is in top form (sub. req.) in today’s Irish Times. I agree with him, the sheer scale and cost of decentralisation is to say the least, ill-considered. But this is coming from an incompetent Fianna Fail/PD coalition, who seem incapable of doing just about anything without making a balls of it.

Fintan muses:

What becomes clear when you read the report is that this is a classic Fianna Fáil operation, in that it appeals vaguely to a broad swathe of the population and sharply to an insider elite.

The plain people of the provinces will see it as a great benefit screwed out of the Dublin 4 establishment by their local chieftains. At the same time there will be a huge bonanza for the real establishment, including the little inner circle of property developers that has a special place in the Government’s heart.

Ah those property tycoons, you gotta love ’em. But what problems could possibly arise from sending all these civil servants down the country? Fintan thinks along the following lines:

The fact that 41 of the 53 new locations are not listed in the National Spatial Strategy as focal points for development is a symptom of the ludicrous inability to co-ordinate policies. The solution? Fragment things even more. Have your civil servants clocking up mileage allowances travelling between BIM in Cavan and the Department of the Marine in Clonakilty, Garda HQ in Thurles and Justice in Dublin, or Bus Éireann in Mitchelstown and the Department of Transport in Dublin. Have eight Ministers and their advisers working many miles away from the Dáil.

But it makes perfect sense if you remember the Government’s deep and abiding affection for the property development industry. When you read the Implementation Report the outlines of the great gold rush appear. The scope for private enrichment is massive.

‘Ah’ some might say, ‘a conspiracy theory!’. But no, I have a feeling Fintan is right on this one. From the people who brought you ‘100% accurate e-voting’ comes decentralisation for profit. Is there anything more we should worry about?

All State data processing will be done in two new centres owned and operated privately. This astonishing notion raises its own fears, especially since reassurances that security will be watertight will come from the Government that brought us the e-voting debacle.

The banks will make big profits from financing these operations. The developers will pass on these costs to the taxpayer and will receive, in return, guaranteed State tenants who can’t move out for political reasons.

There will of course be “an open tendering process, consistent with national and EU procurement rules” just like there was in that other great McCreevy project at Punchestown. Ask the old question cui bono – who benefits? – and the whole thing starts to make sense.

Cui bono indeed. That little project in Punchestown was such a great thing, as was the allocation of National Lottery monies to Minister’s constituencies. Poor old John ‘Sporty’ O’Donoghue got quite upset on the radio last week at suggestions that he may have gotten special treatment because he was high up the ranks of Fianna Fail.

What a banana republic we all live in.

Fisking John Drennan

Ireland is a corrupt country. The disease of corruption is so embedded in Irish society that it is not even noticed by the majority of the population. Even in the media, there are many who simply refuse to accept/recognise corruption when it stares them in the face.

John Drennan wrote an article (reg. required) in the Sunday Independent on 2nd May 2004 and it is a good example of how, even well informed journalists, refuse to see reality.

He begins:

THE triumph of the liberal agenda over the chieftains and robber barons of the Haughey era is complete.

The message here is – Liberal agenda = bad. Robber barons and Haughey = good. Haughey is a former Prime Minister. He’s a liar and tax cheat who was funded by wealthy businessmen for most of his career especially when Prime Minister. Among the many nasty smells surrounding Haughey, is the strong suspicion that he stole money from a fund that was meant to pay for a life saving operation for his ‘friend’ Brian Lenihan. Incredibly, there are many Irish citizens who think that Haughey is a ‘great’ leader/chieftain.

In spite of Beverley Flynn’s ‘class act’ on the steps of the Supreme Court, the great Flynn dynasty which once ruled Mayo and Europe is in pieces. Seven years ago Beverley Cooper-Flynn (as she was known then) was a successful bank employee and a talented politician who could have expected to enjoy ministerial office.

Today she is a ruined woman. The worst of criminals might have some chance to experience a form of redemption. That has been denied to Beverley Flynn. Her status as a woman of no repute and a political outlaw is set in stone.

Flynn freely decided to sue RTE, the Irish national broadcasting station, for stating that she encouraged people to evade tax. She was found guilty of the charge by the High Court and again on appeal to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. In other words she availed of the court system just like any other citizen is free to do, so she has nothing to whinge about. Had she won the Irish taxpayers would be paying out a hefty sum for her troubles.

No company will ever employ her again. In politics, the most she can hope for is a sort of half-life as the female equivalent of Michael Lowry.

Lowry, another dodgy Irish politician, once a member ot the main opposition party, Fine Gael. Under investigation{7 years now} for a variety of reasons but is still strongly supported by his voters. Another indication of how politically ignorant the Irish are, unable to grasp the connection between dodgy politicians and the massive damage the disease of corruption is doing.

The independent career woman who was once a role model for the progressive female Fianna Fail politician has evolved into a political Blanche du Bois. She is dependent on the charity of the Mayo electorate, her builder boyfriend, RTE and the legal profession and if the thin levels of charity which characterise the latter are any indication, then all she can expect is a bankruptcy court, the loss of her seat, the tender embrace of Justice Mahon and the Inspectors Report into NIB.

It might appear to be a heavy sentence. However, for some it still wasn’t enough. The reason for this is simple. Beverley Flynn was the last politician standing who was guilty of an intimate connection to the show-band loving, cream-suited world of the economy of the pig, the potato, the church and the chieftain.

This is what I call the ‘bullshit excuse factor’. Think up any waffle about the ‘lost and pure’ Ireland and relate it to your ‘hero’. It’s difficult to believe that anyone actually takes this drivel seriously, but it appears that an awful lot of Irish people do.

Though she portrayed the image of a modern career woman, her personality and politics was formed by that era. And the problem with being trapped between two cultures is that you can disappear into a chasm. Ironically, had Beverley forfeited her pride, indulged in a post-Orlando, Ben Dunne-style press conference and wept copiously as she adopted the guise of a victim of the culture of the time she would have escaped Scot free.

This in fact is what Flynn did. She also denied that she was guilty of anything while at the same time putting forward the defence that she was only following orders. Dubious claims at best.

Her refusal and that infamous “a Flynn will always support a Flynn” stance meant Beverley became a legitimate target of the new regime of tribunalistas.

Tribunalistas = citizens who want to root out the massive corruption which is destroying Irish society

In the aftermath of the judgement, some of the “brazen political hussy” anger was because Beverley had not accepted her status of guilty. However, no-one stopped to ask what she was guilty of.

She was guilty of facilitating tax evasion.

Of course, she is arrogant. Yes, she facilitated tax evasion.

So, we’re all agreed, she facilitated tax evasion, that’s what she’s guilty of.

Ultimately her gravest sin was that she was not one of that powerful unelected cabal of thought police who dominate the media, the law library and politics and whose weapon of choice is the tribunal.

No, her gravest sin was facilitating tax evasion. This is another example to the ‘bullshit excuse factor’. In a real democracy, Flynn would have been investigated by the police, charged, and if found guilty, given appropriate punishment. In Ireland, those who are unable or unwilling to face up to the fact that we are a Banana Republic will say anything to avoid facing reality.

Beverley is an enemy of the new elite and the tribunalista is only satisfied with annihilation. In spite of Beverley’s defiance, it was still a triumphant week for the tribunalistas. It may appear that the great ‘Get Bertie’ project has failed. However, in another more subtle way, it has been a success.

One of Bertie Ahern’s more impressive traits was a certain humanity. Last week, as the Irish Times celebrated the ending of Fianna Fail’s love affair with luxuries such as due process in submitting to the new ethicists, Bertie may have lost more than he gained.

New ethicists = citizens who want honesty and accountability from their politicians.

Those unreformed Mayo councillors are not an aberration. Instead they represent the electorate’s growing disenchantment with an arid school of political ethics which is dominated by a small elite, costs billions, doesn’t create a single job and is utterly irrelevant to the experience of their lives.

Unfortunately for Ireland, this is true, most Irish councillors are like most Irish citizens – unable to see any further than local politics. What the writer means here is – political ethics are just a pain in the butt, Irish people are different from other nations, we don’t need all that regulation, law, accountability, it’s too expensive and anyway we’re better off being ruled by robber barons and dodgy characters like Haughey.

They suspect the price Flynn is paying for a minor, youthful role in an entire society’s revolution against punitive levels of taxation is too high. They suspect that Beverley’s enemies are no friends of theirs and that our new clergy of tribunalistas, Equality Authorities, Human Rights/Race Commissions will be as oppressive a regime as their predecessors.

This is one of the most idiotic, inane, bullshit excuses prevalent in Ireland as a justification for widespread criminality. Every corrupt individual, group, organisation spouts this vomit when challenged on their criminal behaviour. Here’s what they mean. “There was very heavy taxation in Ireland during the 80’ and 90’ therefore I was justified in breaking the law.” In a Banana Republic, this stupidity makes perfect sense, that’s why it is almost universally accepted in Ireland. The stupid/greedy are unable to grasp the fact that if individuals are allowed to decide what law they will obey, then democracy becomes a joke, which has happened in Ireland.

Up to last week Bertie was still one of them. Not any more. Now he has joined the ‘other’.

Perhaps we should not have been too surprised about the treatment of Flynn. Earlier that week due process had already taken a beating. It wasn’t exactly a hard decision. Brian Curtin is the sort of soft target tribunalistas love to hunt. He is an unprepossessing, portly junior judge who has a messy personal life.

As the taoiseach basked in the new mantle of decisive interventionism, once again the polit-bureau of tribunalistas celebrated and, once again, nobody stopped to ask just how impressive a figure will Ahern cut if Mr Justice Curtin is actually innocent.

Using the majesty of the constitution to sack a judge who is not guilty would certainly provide us with some interesting precedents.

But as elections loom, the government is not in the mood to be troubled by facts. A scapegoat, any dusty old scapegoat, will do and it’s all to the good that Mr Justice Curtin does not “photograph well”.

However, even as we dance on Judge Curtin’s grave, we should consider one point. What works for a rogue judge, will be just as effective when they come for us.

Fortunately, some groups are still safe. Last week when Mr Justice Feargus Flood appeared on the Marian Finucane radio show, he might have expected to face a hard-hitting critique about the status of his tribunal which is regarded as an embarrassment by the Dail and the law library.

So did Marian ask about the ineptitude which allowed a tribunal which was supposed to resolve serious concerns about corruption as a matter of urgency to be dragged by the nose by Mr Gogarty into a morass of irrelevancy?
What do you think? Instead the judge was allowed to reminisce about his days with Paddy Kavanagh. As Marian interjected with sighs of “Gosh!”, all that was missing was a throaty “Aren’t you a wonderful little fellow”. Public service broadcasting at its best.

In spite of all the back-slapping, last week told us a great deal about Ireland and very little of it was good. We now live in a society where accountability is only applied to those who are not one of us.

In fact, accountability is only applied to the small citizen, to social welfare ‘cheats’, to handbag snatchers, to those who live at the bottom of the pile. The rich and powerful are NEVER held accountable. Just this week we had a perfect example of what kind of a country Ireland really is. AIB, Ireland’s largest bank, was found to have ‘mistakenly’ taken money from its customers for at least two years. Whether we are to believe the infamous AIB is another question.

This is just the latest in a long line of scams by the banking sector involving the theft of millions from the State and bank customers. Not a single bank official has ever been questioned about these crimes, never mind being charged.

Eighteen months ago a new body, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (IFSRA) was set up to curtail the mendacious activities of Irish banks. The first thing to come to light after the latest scandal was that the IFSRA does not have the power to prosecute anyone. So apart from meeting the bank bosses for a cup of tea and mildly berating them for being such naughty boys, there is really sweet fuck all they can do about it, and that suits the banks and their political pals just fine. Legislation is apparently on the way to give the IFSRA – but we shall have to wait and see.

We have a legal system which offers the defeated the sole option of bankruptcy, a school of ethics which cannot rise above the cowardice of scapegoating the weak while politics has been reduced to a series of thoughtless displays of moral braggadocio.

Beverley Flynn and Brian Curtin represent the least of our worries.

Especially when John Drennan is writing such nonsense.

Revenue not taxing itself over prosecutions: Colm Keena

This article in the Irish Times (subscription only) is reflecting the fact that Irish authorities are not serious about dealing with white collar crime. In effect, it again confirms that corruption is endemic in Ireland. Over recent years Revenue have been given many extra powers to deal with tax cheats but have failed to use these powers. This is not because of any legal or constitutional constraints but simply because Ireland is a totally corrupt state or in other words a banana republic.
Continue reading “Revenue not taxing itself over prosecutions: Colm Keena”

No taxation without representation

“Sit there in the corner, keep your mouths shut and do what you’re told.” This in a nutshell is how the Town Manager of Cobh Local Authority, Mary O’Halloran, dealt with our so-called public representatives at the annual estimates meeting of Cobh Council.

Ms. O’Halloran was delivering a diktat from Central Government that Service Charges would be set at €400 next year and no citizen or local politician would be allowed to question this autocratic tax imposition.

In effect, Central Government is dismantling local democracy. It is saying to the people of Cobh and many other communities – “Your opinion does not matter; the opinion of your local representatives does not matter. What matters is that we, the bureaucratic, unaccountable, centralised power demands an unquestioned right to plunder the financial resources of local communities. To make that convenient for us it will be necessary to terminate the bothersome concept of local democracy”.

There are two reasons why Central Government believes that it can get away with acting in this dictatorial fashion. Firstly, the system of Local Government is rotten to the core. Over the decades, the main political parties have, through self-serving agreements, turned council chambers into comfortable clubs for party activists. Serving the local community is almost always a secondary consideration. They have, in effect, become puppets of Central Government. Central Government knows that, apart from the occasional principled (but always ineffective) stand taken by genuine councillors, it has nothing to fear from local politicians.

Secondly, the Irish people themselves have become almost totally apathetic. Battered by decades of revelations of sleaze, corruption and incompetence, most Irish citizens have lost faith in their democratic system. They either don’t care and therefore don’t get involved, or have concluded that all democracies operate in this manner and therefore it must be the norm. Nothing could be further from the truth. The manner in which the Irish body politic operates is, to a great extent, abnormal when compared to other Western democracies. For example, when corruption is discovered in these democracies it is acted on immediately- the police and courts are involved from the very start, people actually go to jail if found guilty. In other words, justice is seen to be done. In Ireland, corruption is sidelined into never-ending tribunals where millionaires are created in the legal profession and the politicians can hide from being made accountable.

In 1776, the thirteen British colonies in North America challenged the right of the British Parliament to arbitrarily impose taxation without representation. Their successful challenge resulted in the creation of the greatest democracy of modern times. By abolishing local democracy and imposing punitive taxes on local communities, this Irish Government is doing exactly what the then British Government did to her colonies. I believe that no Irish Government has the right, either legally, constitutionally or morally, to remove local democracy from the people.

The citizens of Cobh and local communities throughout Ireland should challenge this threat to their democratic birthright by adopting the rallying cry of the American colonies – ‘No taxation without representation’

On corrupt politicians and the media

An Irish Senator, Shane Ross, wrote a quite staggering article in the Irish Sunday Indepedent last Sunday, 23 March. I was incensed after reading it.

Senator Ross indicates, by implication in his argument, that it ok to evade tax, and basically to rob banks. It forms a part of an argument about Ireland’s former leader Charles Haughey that praises him as a ‘Great Man’ – this is amazing coming from a journalist let alone a politician.

So annoyed was my uncle by this article that he has contacted an Irish radio show, LiveLine with Joe Duffy, to express his anger. All things going well, Anthony Sheridan should be introduced at some point in the show, hopefully to take on Ross himself.

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