The Truth is the first Casualty of War
As far back as 2006, as the fallacy of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ was becoming apparent, the Fianna Fáil-led government was promising a ‘soft landing’ for the property market. In 2008 the same administration claimed the private banks were rock solid, right up until the day they nationalised their debts. Two years later Ahern & Co continued with their lies by claiming a bailout was not required, whilst simultaneously preparing the surrender of the state’s sovereignty to the Troika.
When Fine Gael and Labour came to power they didn’t just continue with the same economic policies as Fianna Fáil; they also aped the spin and disinformation that had defined the Ahern era. In office the new coalition has shamelessly broken election promise after election promise; performing more U-turns in twelve months than a taxi-driver would perform in a lifetime.
Big Phil and his Big Lies
Barely a week has passed without some media outlet running a scare story relating to the new home tax and the consequences of non-payment. We have been told that local services will be slashed if we don’t pay. We have been told that we will end up being convicted and fined in court if we don’t pay. We have been told that we won’t be able to sell our houses if we don’t pay. We’ve been told that Hogan will be given access to our bank accounts if we don’t pay. We’ve been told that the home tax will be taken directly from our wages and our social welfare payments, if we don’t pay. We’ve been told that the home tax will be added to our utility bills, if we don’t pay. We’ve been told our local authorities will be deliberately under-funded as punishment for our non-payment. And the list goes on and on.
In the run-up to the March 31st deadline for payment of the home tax, Hogan and his spin-doctors opened up a new front relating to the level of ‘compliance’ with his hated home tax. The objective was simple, to convince the general population that the boycott was not being widely supported. In the weeks running up to the deadline Hogan and the polished public relation officers of the Local Government Management Agency were never off the radio and television, providing regular updates on the numbers of homeowners who had registered and paid the tax.
So confident were they of the capitulation of the population they assumed that these updates would create a form of herd mentality of compliance – that the sheep would all follow each other into the slaughterhouse. But in reality these regular updates did the direct opposite. As February faded into March is became apparent that the numbers paying up were falling far short of what the government had expected.
By mid March a new lie had to be created and peddled. The vast majority of homeowners would, we were told, pay the home tax as part of ‘the late surge’. But in truth ‘the late surge’ was more like a ‘late trickle’ with less than 800,000 households out of 1,800,000 eligible households having paid the tax by April 1st.
The premise of Big Phil’s democracy is straight-forward – convince the sheep that a majority of the other sheep are now already in the slaughterhouse. Those sheep that remain outside of the slaughterhouse are to be considered anti-democratic sheep that will be threatened and punished until they go into the slaughterhouse. What awaits them once they are inside the slaughterhouse is not to be discussed under any circumstances.
To get to his ‘majority’ Hogan has had to engage in wordplay that hasn’t been seen since Orwell’s 1984 and creative accounting that hasn’t been seen since Bertie Ahern appeared before the Mahon Tribunal.
For Hogan the word ‘compliance’ now equates to ‘support’. Therefore, those who have become ‘compliant’ as a result of his lies and intimidation are now ‘supporters’ of the home tax. It is not clear if Hogan believes the same ‘compliance’ equals ‘support’ logic could be applied to bank clerks who hand over money to bank robbers or pensioners who surrender their life savings to home invaders!
The next bit of counter-logic from Hogan requires people to accept that they should always do what the majority does and that a failure to do so is in some way anti-democratic. Therefore if 51 percent of households are ‘compliant’ it becomes undemocratic for the remaining 49 percent to refuse to pay the home tax. Again it is unclear if Hogan would extend this logic to the likes of the suffragettes, anti-slavery activists or the minority of Germans who actively opposed the Nazi Party; although given the roots of his own Blueshirts it is likely that he would.
Having established the basic ground rules whereby ‘compliance’ equals ‘support’ and 51 percent ‘support’ equals a ‘democratic’ requirement for 100 percent ‘compliance’ Hogan had now only to deal with the small matter of the actual facts.
Statistic, Statistics and Damned Lies
Hogan then manages to shoehorn another tranche of homeowners into the ‘compliant/supportive’ category by requiring registration by homeowners before they can receive their waivers. At the start of June 17,167 such households were deemed to be ‘compliant’. In Hogan’s democracy these homeowners, many of whom live in uncompleted ghost estates, are deemed ‘compliant’ supporters of the home tax.
The final manipulation that Hogan has used to achieve his ‘majority’ required an act of gerrymandering that would have made James Craig blush. Of the 915,408 properties that make up his ‘majority’ a whopping 226,568 are Non-Principal Private Residences (NPPR). These NPPR are housing units that are owned by people who own one or more properties, in addition to their home.
Included in this cohort are 36 individuals who unbelievably own between 101 and 400 houses each; 165 individuals who own between 41 and 100 houses each and 1,544 individuals who owned between 11 and 40 houses each. Under Phil Hogan’s form of gerrymandering each of these property barons are be entitled to as many votes as they have properties.
Measuring the number of ‘compliant’ properties as opposed to the number of ‘compliant’ property owners once again artificially inflates the figures in Hogan’s favour, allowing him to claim that a ‘majority’ of people now ‘support’ the home tax.
When calculations are based on the number of ‘compliant’ property-owners as opposed to the number of ‘compliant’ properties Phil Hogan’s lies are clear for all to see. As of the start of June, 706,007 homeowners have registered for the home tax and 763,249 have not. In other words 52 percent of homeowners were boycotting the home tax at the start of last month. So much for Hogan’s clear majority!
Boycott, Boycott, Boycott!
The Dublin government know that they are playing a high-stakes game when they threaten legal action against hundreds of thousands of people. They know that it is politically, legally and financially impossible to bring three-quarters of a million homeowners through the courts. But they are willing to play for such high stakes because they fear the potential of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) and the mass boycott that it has organised.
Kenny, Gilmore and Hogan are willing to use lies, disinformation and threats to break the boycott because they know the history of Ireland. They know that boycotts have brought greater governments and political systems to their knees in the past and that they can do so again in the future. If the home tax boycott cannot be broken what chance have they of introducing their new property and water taxes? And what of the rest of their austerity programme?
In the twelve months since Phil Hogan announced the introduction of the home tax he has repeatedly misread the mood of the people in general and of those boycotting the home tax in particular. For a full year he has persevered with the notion that he can force through this deeply unjust measure, regardless of the wishes of the people. He has placed undue importance on achieving a rate of 50 percent ‘compliance’, wrongly believing that this represents a tipping point that will cause the boycott to collapse.
What Hogan does not seem to understand is the fact that people can think for themselves and act upon those thoughts. It seems to be beyond his comprehension that people might oppose injustice not because everyone else is doing it, but because it is simply the right thing to do. He believes that if he can convince people that a ‘majority’ have paid the tax then the rest will simply fall into line, like those sheep walking into the slaughterhouse.
The reality, however, is very different. For hundreds of thousands of people the home tax was the straw that broke the camel’s back. They know that capitulation on the home tax will lead to new property and water taxes within the next few years, taxes which will drive hundreds of thousands of families into dire poverty.
The people that Hogan so patronisingly regards as sheep know exactly what is at stake and they know exactly what goes on inside the Troika slaughterhouse that Fine Gael and Labour are so keen to get them into. In taking a stand against the home tax people are also taking a stand in defence of their schools, their hospitals, their jobs, their communities and their homes. The home tax has emerged as the battleground upon which the austerity programme, and the ideology that underpins it, will be fought. And the winner will take all.
In less than six months time those who paid the home tax for 2012 will be expected to pay their tax for 2013. This will represent the first opportunity since March 31st for the boycott to actually grow. The challenge facing the CAHWT will be to convince large numbers of those who paid in 2012 to join the boycott in 2013 – something which the campaign is already gearing up to do. Boycott! Boycott! Boycott!
Many of the statistics quoted above have been compiled by Professor Rob Kitchin of Maynooth University. For more log onto irelandafternama.wordpress.com
“If you strike at, imprison, or kill us, out of our prisons or graves we will still evoke a spirit that will thwart you, and perhaps, raise a force that will destroy you! We defy you! Do your worst!”
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