#occupypropertytax, Phil Hogan, and the search for scapegoats

The night before Paul Murphy and other CAWHT campaigners were assaulted by undercover police whilst engaging in democratic protest in council buildings that belong to the public, a house in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal was burnt down in an arson attack. The house had been bought by Donegal County Council to house a Traveller family. Racist remarks had been made by local councillors about the housing of Travellers in the area. One Fine Gael councillor said “as far as I’m concerned they can be sent to Spike Island for all I care”, in support of comments by a Fianna Fáil councillor that “there should be an isolated community of them some place – and give them houses and keep them all together”.

Some months ago, it was revealed that Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, who is also the minister responsible for the introduction of property and water taxes, had made racist representations to the council in his local constituency, on behalf of constituents who wanted to make sure Travellers were not allowed to move in to the local area. This blatantly racist abuse of power by Hogan received scarcely any public censure, and Hogan was allowed to continue in his current role.

The fact that Hogan was -and is- allowed to continue in his post is one of the contributing factors to the arson attack in Donegal. The failure to censure him -he should have lost his job, at the very least- has set a precedent. It has shown that blatant racist abuse can be perpetrated by public representatives, with impunity. That Hogan -who received a preferential loan from Michael Fingleton, let’s not forget- remains where he is shows the determination of Ireland’s ruling caste -including the ICTU leadership- to ram through the Troika programme, regardless of the destructive effects on the population, and without any fear of the consequences for whoever gets singled out as a scapegoat, or gets beaten up by the cops, or gets burnt out of their homes.

Those who stand against the dismantling of Ireland’s already emaciated welfare state, the stripping away of social and labour rights, and permanent kleptocracy, can expect no protection or support from the likes of David Begg, the president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In an interview with the public broadcaster on Sunday, Begg voiced support for the property tax. He said that its implementation was the democratic decision of parliament. He said his people would not be joining the ‘Trotskyists’ who are always trying to interfere with what ICTU does.

I said in a previous post that ICTU does not take democracy seriously. That is far too benign a judgement in light of Begg’s words, and in light of ICTU’s anti-German posturing on Saturday. They take democracy seriously all right, but only as an alibi for repression and robbery. They have no problem with the expropriators taking what they please, just as long as it is conducted in the name of the Irish people. Anyone who stands in the way of the sovereign – ‘Trotskyists’, anti-property tax campaigners, whoever – can be crushed like bugs for all they care.

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