This is originally a comment left on a post-budget analysis in the Irish Times by its political correspondent Stephen Collins, who, evidently responding to the mass opposition to water charges that has materialised in both active resistance in housing estates and a huge demonstration in Dublin city centre last week, wrote that:
A fundamental problem is that paying for water offends something deep in the Irish psyche. Living in a country where it rains so much, people find it hard to accept the notion of paying for water. Of course what they will actually be paying for is its treatment and distribution but that is not easy to explain.
I’d love to see the poll questions and methodology Stephen Collins uses to assess ‘the Irish psyche’. Eamon De Valera once said that to know what the Irish people thought all he had to do was look into his own heart. I imagine Stephen Collins is more methodical, and commissions MRBI/Ipsos to launch a probe deep into his own raging id.
Meanwhile in the real world, that is, anywhere outside the general vicinity of Leinster House, anyone you speak to is well aware that the treatment and distribution of water has to be paid for. It is just that most people are aware that they are already paying for it through general taxation, and, given that they are already paying for it, do not see why they should pay even more for it in the form of a regressive tax. It seems that the only people incapable of grasping the reality of this situation are those whose job it is to ignore this reality.
While we’re on the subject of tax, it’s worth noting that throughout all the years of austerity measures designed to protect the sectors of society culpable for Ireland’s economic crash, I cannot recall a single instance where a political commentator in an established media outfit identified cuts to public spending and the consequent withdrawal of vital public services as effectively a higher tax burden on the working people who depend on these services. Indeed, they actively sought to dispel such thoughts by framing previous budgets in terms of a choice between raising taxes and cutting expenditure. I think this is down to something buried deep in such commentators’ collective psyche. I might get MRBI/Ipsos to do a survey on the matter, then torture the data until it confesses I’m right. (For the context, see here).