Interview with Lucinda Creighton… March 31, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
…in the Daily Mail. Conducted by Jason O’Toole, it’s…er…revealing.
Let’s take the Household Tax:
When we meet in her office in the Taoiseach’s Department, Lucinda laughs nervously when I open our interview by stating that it’s been a total PR disaster for the Government. But during the course of this remarkably candid interview, the 32-year-old — who has a reputation for wearing her heart on her sleeve and once stormed out of a 2009 meeting when she felt Enda Kenny insulted her — not only acknowledges that mistakes were made with the household charge, but she also accepts that it is double taxation for those who paid stamp duty.
Uh-oh – for Fine Gael:
Governments have to own up when there are mistakes,’ she says of the household charge debacle. ‘I think anything less than that is not convincing. The biggest issue was the fact that the leaflets didn’t go out. If you’re not communicating with the public you have a problem — and that was a problem. ‘That’s been addressed; certainly in my area the leaflets did arrive this week. It’s late in the day but at least the problem has been rectified. Clearly, there won’t be as high a takeup on it as we might have liked at the outset. Mistakes have been made along the way. It was very rocky…’ Implementing the charge has been beset by embarrassing errors — everything from the lack of payment options to poor communication, to how information leaflets failed to materialise after the printing company given the contract went into receivership. Minister Hogan had to backtrack on his pledge to track down non-complaint householders by checking utility bills when the suggestion was shot down by the Data Commissioner Billy Hawkes. And plans to get local council staff to go door to door like debt collectors were scuppered when the public sector unions stated their members would not do that. Should Phil Hogan now put his hand up and accept responsibility for the mistakes? ‘
‘He’s the minister in charge for the implementation of this household charge, so he is the person responsible,’ she says. ‘But the Government as a whole takes decisions and has to accept responsibility when things go wrong.’
I bet she’d be furious if she ran the Department of Environment? ‘Sure. But look at the big issue — the distribution of leaflets. That company has gone bust, so no head can roll there. They’re gone.’ It’s hard to envisage how Minister Hogan will be able to target the roughly one million defaulting householders. ‘I don’t know what the minister’s approach is going to be, but people have to pay the charge. It’ s essentially up to local authorities to ensure that it is paid. If it’s not paid the local authorities will have a shortfall and will have to identify services to cut. If a substantial number of people haven’t paid they will have to get the finger out and ensure that those charges are paid.’ The argument put forward for introducing the household charge is that we’re the only country in the EU without property taxes. But we’re also the only country to have stamp duty, clearly making this double taxation. ‘I’m accepting that point. I have particular sympathy for people who bought property at the height of the boom and paid significant stamp duty.
‘But my point is this: stamp duty never went to local authorities. We all feel like we’re paying twice on lots of things, but the reality is that the money is gone. That money was wasted by the last government.
Then there’s Europe:
As Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda is all too aware that she too could potentially face into a mael s t rom i f both she and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore fail with their joint spearheading of the Yes campaign in the upcoming fiscal compact referendum. ‘It’s not a question about being kicked out of Europe and I’m not going to speculate about what happens if we vote no. ‘I actually think the No side should be telling us what they propose if we vote no. They’re asking us to take a leap into the unknown and to vote for more uncertainty in our economy and for an unknown outcome. If we vote yes we’re sending out a very strong signal to potential investors, to the European Union and, just as importantly, to the rest of the world that we are absolutely committed to solving the currency crisis.
‘The content of the treaty is about ensuring that we balance our budget along with all other member states.
It only requires 12 member states to ratify it. It will go ahead whether we vote for it or not, with or without us. There won’t be a second referendum if it’s defeated.’
She is adamant that no concessions will be offered to Ireland on the promissory notes to pacify irate taxpayers in an effort to ensure the treaty is passed.
‘We can’t take it to the treaty because it can go ahead without us. So, we can’t hold a gun to anybody’s head.’