Tag Archives: Brussels

Death and Taxes

Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, stated that

‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

While not wanting to speak ill of the dead, for the late Brian Lenihan the certainty of death is now is all too apparent, yet because of his calamitous decision to give a blanket guarantee to our banks when the financial crisis came to a head in September 2008, for the rest of us, the certainty of taxes will remain for a very long time indeed. Taxes on our homes, taxes on our wages, taxes on our water, taxes on our fuel, taxes on generations to come, and all as a result of a decision taken in in secret, without consultation or accountability, by a small group of bankers, economists and political leaders.

The recent outpouring of grief and the media love-in over the death of Mr Lenihan concentrated on the man’s personal courage in the face of death, and his affability and generous personal nature.  He was, we were told, a man of the people. Though I did not know him, I am sure that all of this is most likely true. However HSE statistics show that on the same day as Mr Lenihan passed away, close on one hundred people in total died in Ireland. I am sure that much could be said of the personal courage and affability of many of those people also, but they will have died in relative quiet in comparison to the huge coverage afforded to Mr Lenihan, for they were ordinary people, perhaps not as important to society as one such as Mr Lenihan. Nonetheless, history will record that Mr Lenihan, along with a select few politicians, economists, civil servants and bankers, is unique among us as being the only person who signed away our nations future by lumbering us with the debts of reckless and criminal bankers, a future which, had he listened to the advice given at the time by Merrill Lynch a consultancy company whom the Government hired and paid 6 million to for a few days work and who advised him against a blanket guarantee, might have lead us to a much different place today. So while we can mourn the passing of Brian Lenihan the man, we must also face the fact that Brian Lenihan the politician, due to his actions on that fateful September night, played a huge personal part in the destruction of our economy and our society and ensured that whatever about the certainty of death, the certainty of taxes will remain with the rest of us ordinary mortals for generations to come.

For Mr Lenihan at least, these certainty’s  are no longer a worry.

Ronan Gallagher


Lisbon: Post Coital.

The Lisbon Treaty referendum which we just went through was a bit like sex for Catholics.  We wanted to do it, but was it right? In the heat of the moment, with Lisbon, beautiful Lisbon, spread before us and simmering with seductive promise, we gave in, and in one  lustful moment threw caution to the wind resulting in a Yes! Yes! Yessssss! And now, as we lie, exhausted, sated, and puffing ponderously on  the post coital cigarette, the first tinges of guilt and the prospects of regret begin to creep in.

The tinges of guilt will stem from the fact that perhaps the whole thing was kind of forced, that in our lust we just couldn’t take no for an answer, the prospects of regret perhaps coming from the knowledge that now that we have made our bed, we must lie in it and can only hope we don’t get the wet side.

And if we do get the wet side what then? As the pro Lisbon forces in the country danced ‘the seven veils’ in front of our eyes, tantalising us with the promise of better things to come, they risked raising our excitement and expectation to levels they might not be able to live up to. The promise of jobs, economic stability, and a voice at the center of Europe was at the heart of the Yes campaign’s seductive moves as they strutted their stuff in a sensuous political pole dance which ended with them having their way with us. But as we all know, relationships often change and after the memory of the climax of our yes vote has faded, if those promises are not fulfilled, will we look to our bedfellow with the same dreamy, lust filled eyes? Or, in the cold light of day, will we  begin to see imperfections in our partner? If the result of the seduction does not lead to an improvement in our economy, more jobs, and our voice being heard effectively in Europe, will we become more distant and more critical? Will our lust turn to resentment, anger and ultimately blame? Will we begin to see Europe as a mistake, and, as with all mistakes in relationships, will it eventually lead  to increased pressure for a parting of the ways? And what if the same unfulfilled promise results in similar ‘relationship difficulties’ for other countries who ratified Lisbon, many without being even allowed to vote? What then for this new post coital Europe?

Will we be sitting together around the table come breakfast time or will we prefer to quietly slip out of the bed, sneak down the stairs and scuttle off into the cold, lonely, dark of the night? The outcome of this relationship depends on whether the seed of our seduction bears fruit or falls on barren ground. It is an outcome which now lies firmly in the control of our seducer whose power over us has been greatly enhanced with Lisbon.

Let us hope it is a power and an outcome that lives up to it’s promise.

For all our sakes.


Fab Vinnie, David Lee Roth and Michael O Leary

Back in the early eighties Dave Lee Roth, the spandex wearing ‘wella’ haired front man for 80’s superband Van Halen was being interviewed by Vincent Hanley otherwise known as ‘Fab Vinnie’ for the then hugely popular MT-USA Show on RTE. Vinnie, obviously in awe of the golden haired Roth, couldn’t contain himself and asked him what it was like to be so fabulously wealthy?

With a deft wave of a gold and diamond bejewelled hand, Roth flicked back his hair and looked right at Vinnie with those dreamy eyes and said

‘ You know Vincent, by the time I get to pay my manager, my lawyers, my accountants, my staff, my entertainment bills and the taxman, I’ve just about enough left to buy a small Caribbean island!’

I was reminded of this the other day while watching Michael ‘Arc Angel’ O Leary tell the nation in RTE’s Prime Time debate on Lisbon that we should vote for Lisbon because we are broke, because it is good for business and because he would rather have Europe run Ireland than the ‘Shower of incompetents in Leinster house‘. Michael went on to tell us that he was an important businessman. He employed a thousand people. He paid huge amounts of taxes here in his home country and told the nation that he brought inward investment with his company Ryan Air. Readers should note that it was at that point the memory of Vincent Hanley interviewing Mr Roth nearly a quarter of a century ago popped into my head.

You see, when Michael pays all his taxes etc you can be sure that his take home cheque wont leave him standing at the ATM machine praying to the God of ATM machines to please give him something, anything except that heart sinking message of

‘Sorry you have insufficient funds for this transaction’.

That aside, as long as Mr O Leary pays his fair amount of taxes and covers his costs which I’m sure he does, no matter how much he pays he should not feel that he has any rights or privileges over other tax payers, or that this gives him a right to a bigger say in our democracy than any other citizen of this state, be they taxpayer or welfare recipient.

And there’s where my problem with Europe lies. Deep under my skin I get the creeping feeling that Europe is getting more concerned about markets than people. More concerned about the economic imperative than the  social one. The more I hear ‘We need to be at the heart of Europe winning friends and influencing people‘, I can’t help but wonder if the whole European project amounts to nothing more than a lobbyists paradise? If so why not send a ‘Frank Dunlop’ to Brussels and save all this voting malarkey. Frankly speaking, a word in the right ear from a ‘Frank’ would surely see a jacuzzi in every house in the land. Just imagine it. A Europe with a budget worth billions of euro, covering nearly half a billion people, controlled by a gargantuan political structure where things get done by ‘winning friends and influencing people’ and where the social agenda is being tamed to allow free market conditions to prevail. What’s not to like for  Michael and many like him. It’s a businessman’s paradise!

So every time I hear a well paid business man, politician, economist, banker,  or lawyer tell the nation that they too are sharing the cuts and the pain like everyone else in this seemingly ‘banama’d’ republic, the memory of Mr Roth comes back to me. It rises up when I hear well paid commentators and journalists tell the nation that public sector pay must be cut, education and health cuts must be implemented, that we are all living beyond our means. And it really hits home when one realises that the cuts that the well heeled are taking are more than the average yearly wage of over 80% of the people in this country.

Europe and Ireland. A world of equals? I don’t think so.


Deja Vu

Listening today to An Taoiseach Brian Cowan on RTE’s News at One exhorting us all to vote yes in the second, upcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, I had a terrible sense of Deja Vu. You know that feeling where you are sure you have heard or lived through something before?

Our glorious leader warned us all that the best way to keep our commissioner was to vote yes. If we wanted to be at the heart of Europe we should vote yes. If we wanted to retain our ‘influence’ in Europe we should vote yes. If we didn’t want to be shunned by Europe we should vote yes.

Hadn’t I heard all this before not more than fifteen months ago? Did not our Taoiseach Mr Cowan himself tell us all this during the first and very recent referendum? Didn’t he have anything new to bring to the table? Then it occurred to me that I might possibly be listening to an interview which RTE had dragged up from the archives of the last referendum debate, but no, the presenter clearly informed the listeners that the interview was conducted live in the studio today Wednesday Sept 02 2009.

Is it truly possible that this Government thinks that it can win this referendum by repeating the arguments of the last one, arguments which were rejected by the people little more than a year ago? Is it conceivable that despite all the consultations, summits and other activities since the last referendum the Taoiseach can only come up with a repeat of the same arguments put forward back then? Or is it possible that Mr Cowan, having seen the so called ‘legal guarantees’ being exposed as little more than a toothless political agreement between heads of state, now realises that in fact what he is putting to the people next October is exactly the same as was put to them over a year ago, hence the repetition of the same argument as last time? And if this is true then could not Mr Cowan and many on the yes side be accused of corrupting and manipulating our democratic process to suit their wishes over those of the people by presenting the exact same argument which the people rejected on June 13 last year by a sizeable 53.4% of the votes?

A further worrying familiarity is that at the end of the interview Mr Cowan was asked again if he had read the treaty. This was a question he chose, for whatever reason, not to answer, instead preferring to tell us that the Government and all Departments would be ‘au-fe’ (I’ve never really understood what the hell that means) with all aspects of the treaty.

Today’s interview raises many questions which those who have been through the first referendum will find familiar. That is because they are exactly the same questions raised last time out. Questions like, if we vote no will we lose our Commissioner? If we vote no will we be shunned by Europe, and if so, who wants any part of that kind of democracy? Is our influence in Europe dependent on us saying yes to everything Europe demands? Oh and one last but very important one. Has our Taoiseach actually read the treaty this time?

Please tell us that you have Taoiseach….Please….

See what I mean about Deja Vu!



The One

They talk of him all across the land. On busy streets, in quiet corners, from atop mountains and in the valleys, they all speak the same name.

‘George’.

He speaks softly they say, but wields truth like a steely blade through a mire of corruption, cronyism, and deception. He can be many places at one time and though he has performed no miracles, they say that one day he will.

He has many followers. They are legion. Gathering in great numbers to hear him speak, they eagerly await his every word and with every word he instils in them new hope.

His wisdom is so great, they say that to look upon his face, is to look into the face of knowledge itself. He is reported to have visions, visions of a dark future for those who do not heed his word, and enlightenment for those who do.

Great leaders have courted him, seeking his knowledge and wisdom and the people have taken him into their hearts. Some say he is the Messiah yet none claim he is Messianic. He speaks his mind without fear or favour and delivers his message with crystal clarity. He is the name on everyone’s lips.

He is George. He is ‘The One’.

But there is a powerful force overshadowing him that will soon rise to challenge his power. A ‘Krypton like’ force that threatens to render him powerless and weak under its ruthless and indomitable power. A force as immovable as Mount Everest and as unstoppable as a Tsunami, but one which he must overwhelm if he is ever to be truly ‘The One’.

A force that has come to be known as,

‘The Party Whip’.


%d bloggers like this: