The high moral ground has not been comfortable territory for those left-wing occupiers of that odd collection of Independent TDs described as the Technical Group. It is a territory which could benefit from a contour map, giving attitude ratings in the grading of the holier-than-thous.
In that state of sanctity, any shadow of a skeleton in the cupboard could open a massive earthquake in that high moral ground, as it has done for its most flamboyant member, Mick Wallace. Here indeed be dragons!
The trouble with the territory is that you must be squeaky-clean to occupy it. There has to be credibility and integrity, not just the spoutings of old, tired and now discredited, Marxist theories. Much of the rhetoric coming from the left-wing of the Technical Group would appear to veer more in the direction of populism, rather that the responsibilities which all of us have as citizens; responsibilities to do what we can to re-build our country and its economy.
It is surely irresponsible for any elected representative to recommend, in fact to aggressively campaign, as some have done, for the non-payment of the septic tank tax. It is, of course, the democratic right, and is, in fact, the duty, for any politician to campaign and vote against proposed legislation during the process of its framing, but once it is passed into law, is it right that any of our legislators should advocate its non-payment? It would seem a contradiction in terms: the law makers become the law breakers. From a so-called principal moral stand, they have recommended the breaking of the law. And yet they choose to remain members of the legislature.
Nowhere was this double-think more obvious than in the debates in the media and in the “literature” on the recent Stability Treaty referendum. The left-wing TDs argued strenuously, as they were democratically entitled to do, for the “No” vote. And they linked their arguments with the “cuts and charges” both those implemented and those pending. “Demand jobs - Not Cuts and Charges - Vote No to the Fiscal Treaty” United Left Alliance urged in one brochure delivered to my door, while another told me to “Reject Home and Water Taxes,” this latter issued by an organisation which described itself as nohouseholdtax.org
Both reflected exactly the arguments made in the media by the left-wing component of the Dail’s Technical Group. But the “Reject” leaflet recommended something more. It told me I should “weaken the government.” Was this just populist verbiage or was it an implied threat of anarchy?
However it might be interpreted, the association of the Treaty and domestic taxation seems, again, irresponsible. The Household Tax has now been passed into law, in a democratic decision made in our parliament. Whatever its description, it is Rates by another name. And we are the only country in the EU which does not have this local taxation. It was abandoned in yet another cynical vote-gathering exercise by a Fianna Fail government in 1978.
But now it has become a fact of life, a fiscal necessity. That’s the function and objective of taxation - a necessary financing of our public services, which includes the financing of our legislature and the handsome payment of our legislators, including their generous expenses.
Like the Septic Tank Charge, the Household Charge is now an obligatory payment for all designated householders. The Water Charge will, inevitably, come into law, and again, we in Ireland are one of the few countries in the western world which has not, heretofore, had to pay for the water we consume.
The left-wing may not agree with this. They may not like it, but taxation is a prerequisite, an absolute, in democratic governance. The encouragement, even by association, not to pay lawfully imposed charges, illustrates a dichotomy between the left’s espoused agenda and the hard facts of economic life.
Their agenda campaigns for the provision by the State of widespread social and welfare services from the cradle to the grave, even to the point of discouraging personal initiative. This, despite the fact that regimes where the State-takes-care-of-everything (from cradle to grave), have been abysmal failures, even in our own time.
Such policies presume high taxation, but in Irish leftie-speak this presumption results in selective taxation. Some people pay and some people don’t. Some people, responding to the “anti” campaigns, don’t pay even though they could afford to do so. This is discriminatory and it is divisive of a society. It is also unfair and unjust.
Every democracy needs a leftist element. It can often be the uncomfortable conscience of a society. But in the circumstances, of whatever origin, in which we now find ourselves in Ireland, the left-wing of the Technical Group has not covered itself in either glory or responsibility. Being anti for anti sake debases the high moral ground which they claim as their own. Indeed, it might seem that the real occupant of that hallowed space, under their auspices, is the tooth fairy.