Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WOULDN’T you know there is a by-election in the offing and a general election on the way?

Pledges, pledges and more pledges; the more the merrier it would seem. There seems to be no end to the pledging by all political parties. If I wasn’t such a pessimist, I would say we are in for a major windfall – at least, if we are to believe all the guff coming out of the mouths of those who are either in power or want to be.

In 1977, we saw the end of a Fine Gael/Labour coalition when Fianna Fáil promised to get rid of domestic rates. The country had gone through a few years of austerity – we hadn’t heard that word at the time but an unfortunate finance minister, Richie Ryan, carried the can for all that was wrong and the hardships we had to endure.

Truth be told, the problem was caused by previous Fianna Fáil administrations, but they had been put out of power and others were trying to clean up the mess. The problem with cleaning up the mess is that no sooner had it been swept into a heap than people forgot what it looked like or the stench it caused. The same applies to economics.

We have endured a few years of untold hardship thanks to a few years of recklessness by those who should have known better – or at least had been entrusted to do their best on our behalf.

Granted, those who came to clean up the mess broke every promise they made along the way. We have a whole raft of taxes they were adamant would not be introduced and there is no sign of any of them being abolished. Our health service is still a mess, the cost of education continues to rise and, no, we did not get back any money from Europe. Oh, and we did pay the bond holders.

But now it would seem that Fianna Fáil have the answer to all our problems. They are going to do away with the universal social charge – that same tax that their own minister for finance, the late Brian Lenihan, introduced at the height of the financial crisis as a short-term measure to raise much-needed money.

We were told it was going to be a temporary measure but, if truth be told, we all knew that no sooner would it be introduced than it would become permanent. Remember an emergency tax being introduced over 20 years ago when a building society got into trouble and the government bailed it out? That institution made a full recovery after a couple of years but the tax remained.

All employees hate the USC – whoever thought up that name deserves a medal because it doesn’t sound like a tax – because it takes a percentage off the top of your wages, irrespective of all the other taxes you pay.

First Micheál Martin made it known that Fianna Fáil will examine this tax and reduce rates. But now his finance spokesperson intends to go further and abolish it altogether. Shades of 1977, I think.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could believe them? But as much as I would like it to be true, I have difficulty believing that or anything else coming from the mouths of those in Dáil Éireann at present.

If history has taught us anything ,it is that change – at least in the political world – is very slow in coming.

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By Michael Godfrey
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