Intermission

Scribbling may be a little sparse over the next while.

I don’t know when normal service will be resumed.

If indeed it is resumed.

No one can foretell the future.

I learned that yesterday.

Talk amongst yourselves.

The final straw

I dropped by The Raccoon Arms yesterday.

I have been a visitor to that hallowed establishment for a long time but I don’t think I have ever commented there.

Yesterday however, Anna turned her attention to the Irish Water business.  The arguments put forward by her readers generally followed the lines that water metering is a good thing as it prevents waste, and that the Irish shouldn’t be complaining about paying for a service they have received for nothing up until now.

On the face of it, that sounds like a reasonable comment but there are quite a few points I would like to make, and rather than clutter up the Raccoon Arms with my musing I thought I would put them here.  After all, if that is Anna’s reader's attitude it is also likely to be the attitude of a lot of others, including non-Raccoonites.

First of all, let’s put to rest this idea that we have been receiving our supplies for free up until now.  This is a common misconception and is a nice little sound bite for those who demand we accept meters.  Up until now our water supplies have been paid for through taxation just as our taxes pay for roads, street lighting and other such “free” services.  If they announced that they were transferring that portion of taxation to water metering, that would be fair enough, but they are not – they are introducing water metering in addition to the taxes which will not be correspondingly reduced.  This is an additional burden on top of the many taxes that we already have to bear.

Another little problem is that this new tax will presumably be classed as a “charge” or “utility bill” and will therefore be subject to taxation and VAT?  So we now have to pay tax and VAT on tax?

I have no problem with the concept of metering to conserve resources.  However we are constantly told about the amount of wastage in the system and by implication that metering will solve this.  It won’t.  The vast majority of leakage and waste is in the system itself long before the water gets to the household.  In some regions leakage through faulty mains runs as high as sixty or seventy percent as a result of decades of neglect and misappropriation of taxation.  Metering domestic supplies will have no effect on this whatsoever.

Then there is the problem with the company itself.  Irish Water has been set up as essentially a private company.  Like the other utility companies it can be sold off at any time by the government.  Yet this company demands that we supply such information as our banking details and out PPS [Social Security?] number which is for revenue purposes only and by law cannot be demanded by a private company.  There is widespread fear that this information can be sold off to the highest bidder, and that if the company were sold, that information would automatically transfer to the new owner.  Incidentally, their computer system failed on the very first day of operation and they have already managed to post over six thousand personal details to the wrong addresses so it’s money well spent?

As an aside, the setup of Irish Water has so far cost somewhere in the region of a billion [yup – a thousand million to set up a company], a fair chunk of which has come out of the National Pension Reserves.  This is before a single cent has been billed from the public.  And already they are planning to give themselves bonuses of up to 15% of their salaries?  Why couldn’t they just have used this money to upgrade a significant part of the water infrastructure?

Water is a unique utility.  There are alternative methods for heating, lighting and cooking but there is no alternative to water.  Anna mentions the prospect of drilling a private well but this is not only very expensive [despite some grants] but is also out of the question for the vast majority of households.

Since the bailout, Ireland has had to endure years of cutbacks, reductions in salaries [and pensions] and general misery.  While the Greeks rioted, the Irish bit their tongues.  Then we are told that as a condition of accepting the bailout we have to introduce water billing.  Yes – the EU demanded it.  Bear in mind that this is on top of a new “house tax” which was introduced last year, running to many hundreds of euros and you may understand why this water charge is seen as the last straw.  We are constantly being told that “Ireland is now on the road to recovery” yet they are intend on burdening us with yet more taxation.

We have had enough.

Sleight of hand

Today is Budget Day.

For a while now we have been hearing all about how this is to be an “end of austerity” budget.  There are all sorts of promises that the tax burden will be eased and how they are going to start “giving something back”.

We, the Poor People of Ireland are of course meant to be grateful.  Those nice people who run our lives are actually thinking of us and are helping us through the crisis. 

Michael ‘The Weasel’ Noonan is going to happily announce all sorts of measures which will sound nice but will have fuck all effect on me.  For this apparently I am supposed to applaud his largesse and proclaim him a saviour, and lay palm fronds on the street for him to walk on.

In the last year, two new taxes were introduced.  We had the tax on our homes and of course the water tax.  Between those two, they are demanding an extra €700 or so a year off me, and that doesn’t include all the other various charges, taxes and duties that have all increased in the last couple of years.

So, a simple piece of mathematics….

Unless the budget eases my tax burden by at the very least €700 a year, I am worse off.  There is no “relief”.  There is no “easing of the burden”.  They are still robbing me blind to pay off their pals in Brussels and those gamblers on the financial markets.

And what’s more, they cannot “give something back”.  Giving something back that you stole in the first place is not a gift – it’s merely restitution. 

This is how they do it, you see?

They mug you for a thousand at gunpoint, and then give you a fiver back.

And you’re supposed to be grateful.

Green shoots

I hate that expression “green shoots”.

I hate it because it is one of those horrible little expressions that seems to become the mot du jour, and it has been thrown at us incessantly here in Ireland for the last four or so years whenever someone is talking about the economy.  Just Google “irish economy green shoots” and you’ll see what I mean.

“Green shoots” is also a perfect expression of the complete disconnect between our gubmint and reality.  For four or so years they have been wiffling on about “green shoots” while the people of Ireland continue to watch their sons and daughters emigrate in search of a job; people continue to be evicted from their homes and families struggle to put food on the table. 

The gubmint seems to be under the impression that by uttering those two magic words that we will all emerge from our bunkers and start spending like there is no tomorrow.  They imagine that the financial market will suddenly gasp in amazement and immediately give us an AAA credit rating.  They think that we will actually believe them and forgive them for all the financial hardship which we have had to endure, and indeed are still enduring.

We have had an interesting few days here.

There were two by-elections where the main parties were ousted by independents campaigning almost solely on the water charges, and then there was the march on Saturday which attracted tens of thousands onto the streets.

Sunday Times

Of course the shysters in power are wringing their hands and blaming their losses on everything but the fact that people don’t trust them any more.  Today I hear that there is going to be a proposal in tomorrow’s budget to give tax relief on the water charges [sheer coincidence, of course]. 

They are rattled.

People are beginning to stand up to them.

People have had enough of the bullshit, the lies, the chicanery and outright deceit.  They have had enough of being robbed blind at every turn.

Could we be seeing the first green shoots of a long overdue awakening of the Irish people?