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The Donnybrook Consensus (or: “April Fool”?) April 1, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Ireland, media, Media and Journalism.
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I switched off Marian Funincane’s programme on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning. She had four people on her opening panel: a Fine Gael TD, a former Fianna Fáil minister, a business correspondent from Independent Newspapers (semi-retired), and a business man.

I wonder how they are going to get a balanced discussion out of that mix. How does that selection of four get even near the diversity of experience, opinion and situation of the population RTÉ is meant to serve?

It’s not as if there are no choices available to RTÉ:

  • Not one trade unionist;
  • not one unemployed person;
  • not one person from an organisation representing unemployed people;
  • nobody from the campaign against the household charge;
  • nobody — campaigner or academic — opposed to delaying rather than cancelling the promissory notes;
  • nobody from a think tank or research group (like the Nevin Institute or TASC or the UCD School of Social Justice or the Privatisation and PPPs (P4) Research Group at UL …);
  • nobody from any of the community based organistions campaigning against austerity or for an end to poverty — the Ballyhea protest, the Kilbarrick CDP, St Michael’s Estate, Rialto Residents … ;
  • nobody from an NGO working to change Ireland like Barnardos or the EAPN or Social Justice Ireland or Claiming Our Future or the Community Workers Co-operative or Focus Ireland.

There are more than a handful of unemployed people available. Heck, more people are on the live register (439,589 in January 2012) than gave Fianna Fáil a first preference in the general election a year ago (387,358).

I know it’s April 1, but, RTÉ, you’re not being funny when you do that.

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Comments»

1. Ivorthorne - April 1, 2012

I tend to rant about this kind of thing a lot, but I find it really frustrating. It seems to me that this problem – the dominance of the pro-business, pro-establishment approach in the media – has only got worse in recent times, and yet, more and more people are opening up to the messages of anti-capitalist groups.

Obviously there are a few dissident voices in the media, but people like Fintan O’Toole, Gene Kerrigan and Vincent Browne are treated in the same way as the likes of John Waters or Ivan Yates. They write colour pieces, but they don’t frame the debate and they don’t set the agenda.

The household charge campaign was a remarkable success, but even now we see the major news organisation frame the story in terms favourable to the government. They report low figures for the protests and accept the fudged figures of Phil Hogan as fact. It’s no accident that the final figure provided by Phil comes to just over 50%. They underestimated the total number of households (according to census data) and incorporated estimates made by Phil’s lackeys in the numbers provided for people who registered. If we had a real free and independent press, these figures would be challenged and the government wouldn’t get away with such blatant lies.

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WorldbyStorm - April 1, 2012

+1

The discourse around the 50 per cent is particularly blatant. And yet even a little digging at the figure demonstrates it’s wrong. Moreover it doesn’t change the fact one iota that more than half of those who were being charged didn’t pay. That’s a fairly amazing outcome, one way or another.

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CL - April 1, 2012

It is an amazing outcome. Those who didn’t pay the poll tax in Britain came nowhere near 50%, but led to the end of Thatcher’s political career.

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Bartley - April 1, 2012

Amazing outcome no doubt, but one that will I fear be soon seen as Pyrrhic victory by those on the left who are interested in providing quality public services.

Such services cost, and require an efficiently-collected and sustainable revenue stream to support them.

Hard to put the genie back in the bottle after half the house-owning population have been convinced they can choose not to pay whatever tax or charge that appears not perfectly fair from their individual perspective.

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ejh - April 1, 2012

Indeed. I mean After the poll tax was defeated in the UK public services almost totally disappeared due to non-payment of other taxes. And now you often hear people saying “if only we’d not been so stupid, and all paid the poll tax…”

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CL - April 1, 2012

“Would you pay a charge if you were unhappy with the service?” asked Phil Hogan.
http://www.independent.ie/national-news/phil-hogan-refuses-to-pay-4k-service-charges-on-his-portugal-holiday-penthouse-3067684.html

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Bartley - April 1, 2012

The poll tax simply morphed into the council tax, a valuation-based property tax, which is exactly what was pre-announced to replace the household charge here from next year.

Also the poll tax was far more manifestly unjust, without the extensive system of waivers that apply to the household charge here. Tenants, residents in social housing, students and the unemployed were all caught by the poll tax, whereas most of those cases are absolved from any liability under the household charge.

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CL - April 1, 2012

‘Also the poll tax was far more manifestly unjust, without the extensive system of waivers that apply to the household charge here’. – Bartley.

And yet a much greater proportion has refused to pay the Household Charge than refused to pay the poll tax.

Sinn Fein touch on the reason why:
“Minister Hogan is guilty of monumental hypocrisy….he asks ‘Would you pay a charge if you were unhappy with service?’ Yet he expects the Irish people to pay a regressive Household Charge to fill the banking black hole and while local government and other serivces continue to be cut. ”
http://www.sinnfein.ie/newsroom

.

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Jim Monaghan - April 2, 2012

Gee, and the roads have not been repaired, schools shut down. Get a grip. The cut backs were general across everything and would have occurred anyway. They want to slim the state as a long term measure.
“almost totally disappeared due to non-payment of other taxes”
I am confused by this. Were other taxes optional.
You gild the lily somewhat.It suits the Tories to blame the cut backs on this. A spurious excuse. Here aside from not paying for private debt, the banks, most people want a fair tax system where those who have pay. Eg Higher rates of income taxes at 60%, &0% and 80%. Even the French Socialist candidate are calling for this.

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2. fergal - April 1, 2012

Tomboktu,if you’re not happy you can always tune into…newstalk…today fm for balanced current affiars debates

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3. Wendy Lyon - April 1, 2012

There was a telling moment a couple weeks ago after Paul Begley got his sentence for evading the garlic tax. Marian Finucane raised it on her show and gave Begley the same sort of sympathetic coverage that has characterised RTÉ’s reaction to the sentence. Pat Rabbitte, Eamon Ryan and Paul Anthony McDermott were on and all pointed out the amount of money involved and that the sentence only seems harsh because we’re so used to white collar crime going unpunished in this country. Finucane seemed genuinely flustered by her guests all expressing a view different to hers (and to the general D4 consensus), and quickly changed the subject.

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WorldbyStorm - April 1, 2012

I find RTÉ unlistenable to these days for precisely that reason. There’s a middle class consensus so deeply embedded there, and at the IT too, and at the Sindo (albeit with some populist shape throwing) that it’s like stuff being beamed in from a different planet.

Conor McCabe put it well in a recent article in LookLeft:

According to the income distribution statistics produced by the Revenue Commissioners, the median [my italics - wbs] PAYE wage in Ireland in 2008 was just under €27,000, that is about half of all PAYE workers earned €27,000 or less that year, with almost 64% earning less than €35,000.

By the way €27k is equivalent to around 439 take home per week [approx figure].

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Eoin O'Mahony - April 2, 2012

+1

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1798Mike - April 3, 2012

Yes WbS – you are dead right. RTE is unlistenable to. I have given up on all RTE news, current affairs and discussion shows. Dublin 4 talking to Dublin 6 is one crude way of putting it. I found that I had to detoxify myself and remove my constant anger at the Donnybrook consensus. Life is so much better without overpaid prats like Cathal MacCoille (hammer of bus drivers and teachers) in my head.

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4. Bartley - April 1, 2012

CL:

And yet a much greater proportion has refused to pay the Household Charge than refused to pay the poll tax.

Exactamundo.

Much of the 30% who refused to pay poll tax could be accounted for by groups (transient tenants, students, unemployed etc.) who arent even liable for the household charge.

Whereas here we had half of the home-owners in the country deciding the charge didnt apply to them. The weight of numbers requires that a huge number of these defaulters are middle earners, who will have to form the bedrock of a sustainable tax base.

Which is why the damage done to tax-payer solidarity is potentially far worse here than in the poll tax era UK.

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WorldbyStorm - April 1, 2012

Not so sure that holds up for a number of reasons. Firstly the political expression of campaigns has not had a right of centre anti-tax face to it. Quite the opposite. The arguments have been equity, proportionality and justice. Where people were mobilised it was along those lines.

Even if one accepts, as I would, that the influence of the campaigns were limited, the fact remains that there’s been no organised right face to it at all.

I genuinely don’t think this is as fertile ground for a breakdown in societal attitudes to taxation as you seem to think. Not least because the other half bought into the explanations offered by government.

And then, there’s the obvious factor that these are extraordinary times economically and politically and this is about the strongest manifestation of any dissent at political level other than at the ballot box.

And then there’s another point which is that it’s not quite that people didn’t think the tax didn’t apply to them. Talking to many many people pro and contra in recent weeks the sense was that they’d pay one way or anotehr, voluntarily and involuntarily but that the eventual property tax had to be ‘just’. The social compact hasn’t been broken, there’s no serious rupture with the state.

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ejh - April 1, 2012

But the whole argument is a nonsense, because people aren’t claiming that they can just not pay any tax they happen not to like.

When people defy what they perceive to be an unjust law, it doesn’t mean there is a wholesale breakdown in law and order, because it is understood what it happening and what is not happening. People go on obeying other laws.

It simply does not happen in the way you are describing (much as with the benefit cap the other day, regarding which you advanced a similarly specious argument).

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5. sonofstan - April 1, 2012

People aren’t paying this charge/ tax, not because of the specific injustice of it, or because they can’t afford it, or because it represents a breakdown in tax-payer solidarity (ingenious attempt Bartley) but because they CAN not pay it, and thus they can use it as a way of indicating their general dissatisfaction with the thrust of government policy and the perceived unfairness of paying off our banking debt by cutting back social provision.

You can’t withhold income tax, or not pay VAT, or demand that the dole give you back the amount taken away over successive budgets: but you can refuse to pay this – so, if you don’t buy the austerity consensus, or even if you -rightly – think the burden is not being evenly spread, you can indicate this by not paying this.

To an extent, it illustrates Varadkar’s point about referenda in Ireland: people are using it as an occasion to protest, not about the specificity of this tax, or of a property tax in general, but because it offers an opportunity. And more fool Hogan for offering that opportunity.

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6. CL - April 1, 2012

“they can use it as a way of indicating their general dissatisfaction with the thrust of government policy and the perceived unfairness of paying off our banking debt by cutting back social provision.”-SOS.
Exactly.
The level of dissatisfaction with the poll tax was enough to precipitate the beginning of the end of the Thatcher regime. The much greater percentage who are not paying the HC is evidence of considerable disaffection with the policies of the ruling oligarchy. The SF statement is attempting to tap into this, although the notion that there is a black hole in the banking system into which taxpayers money disappears is nonsense.
To placate finance capital billions are being transferred from the working class to pay off failed gambling debts by the likes of Goldman Sachs etc. People are clearly very discontent with such an economic policy. The success of the campaign not to pay is a significant beginning. The fiscal compact treaty is part of the same effort by the ruling oligarchy to subordinate peoples economic welfare to the interests of parasites and predators.

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7. Bartley - April 2, 2012

Well, the noble-protest-against-austerity idea would be far more plausible if it didnt have the happy side effect of leaving the protesters €100 better off than their compliant neighbours.

There was, for example, a mini campaign from one of the Dublin radio stations to encourage people to register their protest by donating the €100 to Crumlin hospital instead.

I would love to know the take-up on that, but I doubt Crumlin will be in a position to wrap up their €8m fundraising campaign anytime soon:

http://www.cmrf.org/site/why_give

There may have been just a hint of cynicism in a commercial radio station jumping on an aw-shucks bandwagon, but note that a mere 10% of the defaulters heeding the call would have but Crumlin over the line.

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RosencrantzisDead - April 2, 2012

I don’t really understand what you are saying. First, you complained that ‘taxpayer solidarity’ (a somewhat laughable notion in this country) had broken down and the end was nigh. Your evidence to support this – the fact that the anti-household charge campaign was wildly successful.

Now, you argue that the protestors are not altruistic in their approach. This is irrelevant. Any given individual probably has several reasons for not paying – the impression I am getting is that many are annoyed about the cuts and want to register their discontent. A large cross-section of that group could also use the €100. Money is tight and they will hold onto what they can. This is nothing new and is not surprising in any way.

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CL - April 2, 2012

Its disgusting that a childrens medical service has to beg for donations while billions of taxpayers money are being used to pay the failed gambling debts of the predators and parasites of finance capital.

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Jim Monaghan - April 2, 2012

Exactly, well said.

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Ed - April 2, 2012

The real problem in terms of building ‘taxpayer solidarity’ in Ireland is what has been done by the current government and its predecessor. If we are going to have a progressive consensus on tax, it needs to work like this – people know that if they pay more tax, society will benefit through improved social services; they may not benefit immediately themselves, but the services will be there if and when they need them, and society as a whole will definitely benefit.

Now, what’s been happening in the last few years? The exact opposite – people pay more tax, in various ways, knowing that in return, they will be getting a lower standard of social provision, fewer public-service workers being paid less to deliver fewer services, while most of the extra revenue is drained off to pay for private banking debts. This is a vastly bigger problem in terms of maintaining ‘taxpayer solidarity’ than anything to do with the household charge (even if the consequences of the anti-charge campaign were as you claim they are, which I don’t accept).

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Ed - April 2, 2012

By the way, speaking of the ‘Donnybrook Consensus’, here’s a fine example I’ve just seen from the IT: 13 of 16 paragraphs given over exclusively to the Government’s view, including 9 paragraphs of direct quotation from Phil Hogan.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0402/breaking7.html

This is the sort of thing that would amuse people if it happened in Iran.

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Ed - April 2, 2012

And it gets even better (sorry to be bombarding with posts, but I’m just going through the IT online with my jaw dropping) – their ‘edited’ version of Kenny’s speech leaves out his line about not kicking the future in the face, they don’t want the Dear Leader to appear ridiculous:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0402/1224314231929.html

At least the Indo doesn’t airbrush the photo quite so blatantly:

http://www.independent.ie/national-news/kenny-kicks-off-campaign-for-yes-to-treaty-3067995.html

‘Tis a short walk from Donnybrook to Tara Street

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8. ivorthorne - April 2, 2012

Bartley, given that only a tiny fraction of people who didn’t register ever heard about that campaign, it’s a little rich to go about claiming that this is evidence that the protest was motivated by self interest.

Even if they’d all heard bout it, the truth is that those who didn’t register now owe more than 100 euro and that debt will continue to accumulate interest. You’re not better off when you owe a debt. If you were, then those with massive credit card bills would be considered better off that those with a 0 balance. With threats coming from FG and Labour to track people down through utility bills and debt collection squads from the council office, it takes courage to refuse to pay out of sense of solidarity with those who cannot.

I don’t own a house, and I’d like to think that if I did I would refuse to pay this charge, but I don’t know for sure that I’d have stood up to the intimidation of Hogan and company so I admire those who have done just that.

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