Being an all-Ireland party has its downsides – Sinn Fein’s inconsistency on property taxes

Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes spoke at the North-South East West panel at the Alliance conference this afternoon. He spoke about the inconsistency of Sinn Fein’s positions in different parts of the island of Ireland. You can listen to his comments (should start at 8 min 36 secs):

And as the minister of state for the Department of Finance I’m interested in Northern Ireland’s household charges and property taxes. I understand your property tax works out at an average of about £1,200 per year. I think we’ve a lot to learn from Northern Ireland [delegates laugh] on how to establish and collect a tax [more laughs] and of course I cannot help but refer to Sinn Fein who accept a relatively large property tax in Northern Ireland but are against it in the Republic.

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  • RyanAdams

    Being in Government and Opposition at the same time was bound to let the veil slip at some point…

  • John Ó Néill

    Rates (as a property tax) are set, levied, collected and spent by local authorities in the north. They are set as a flat rate, collected and spent centrally in the south (as a straightforward poll/asset tax rather than a local authority service charge). So another member of the FG-Lab govt and now APNI appear not to know or understand the difference. Frankly, I’m surprised at APNI.

  • > Frankly, I’m surprised at APNI.

    As the comments were made solely by the Fine Gael guest, no need to be surprised at APNI!

    Since there’s no local authority equivalent, then local services must be funded from the centre. So part of the €100 property charge will support local services … and paying off that whopping loan from the international/European banks …

  • redhugh78

    [text deleted – mods] Average rate in 6 counties works out at around £700 not £1200.
    furthermore, in the South you have to pay for a number of things which you don’t pay for in the North eg school books, €300 for your bin to be lifted, vrt on your car, transport to school, and your septic tank emptied.
    The property tax covers none of the above while in the North the rates pay for transparent services.
    Absolute garbage to suggest that the Rates in the North is the same as the Property tax in the South.

  • redhugh78

    for text deleted by mods can I will replace with ‘ Brian Hayes is being economical with the truth…

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes.

  • John Ó Néill

    Local authorities (i.e. councils and corporations) in the south do set and levy commercial rates (on top of the usual fees and planning levies etc) so the funding model is partially in place. The real mistake here was in not bringing rates back in (and by doing so, differentiating local power from the Oireachtas to dilute the parish pump dynamic).

    And, in fairness to them, APNI audience didn’t seem to recognise factoids when they were given them by the Minister.

  • Of course, southern taxpayers already pay for local government through income tax, a model brought in by Fianna Fáil decades ago. Hence the opposition to double taxation, especially when the taxation concerned is as often as not regressive in its application.

  • On a related note, the cheek of this from a party that supports raising corporation tax in one part of the island and lowering it to the rate it opposes in the other cracked me up

    http://newrytimes.com/2012/04/20/murphy-slams-double-standards-and-inconsistency-of-sdlp/

  • Mick Fealty

    Look, I’m not going to get overly involved here. But the truth is that SF has been given a free hand on this by the indolence of some of the other parties in the game.

    FF disemboweled local Government funding under the blessed Jack Lynch back in the 77 election. Only Labour (SF were presumably were not interested in acquiring power at the time) tried to put it back together again in the 80s, and were rewarded with a refusal to implement by the biggest councils in the country.

    Labour and FG *have* to press ahead with these reforms but they (well, at least Labour) are going to get cooked for doing so. The move to re-establish local (and more resilient taxation) is a result of a deeply unpopular, but probably unavoidable bail out from the ECB. Therefore Labour’s difficulty is SF’s opportunity.

    In politics it is what you *do* that matters. And the boot is most undoubtedly on SF’s oppositionalist foot. They don’t have to defend the local rate in Northern Ireland, since partition means that most voters in the south don’t give a stuff what they get up to ‘outside the state’.

    At the heel of the hunt people are pissed at the powers that be in Ireland, Greece, France, Spain. Anyone who tries to stem the tide will need a hell of a lot of luck hanging on to both their dignity and their political office.

    Why SF thinks it is perfectly okay to levy a local property tax at £1200 but is dead against a *provisional* rate of £67 is, nonetheless, a very interesting point. It’s hard to buck Alan’s point that these services are better ring fenced for local government spending, but the disaggregation of that spending from central accounts is another matter altogether.

    If the accounting systems are not ready for a functional shift back to local democracy then it can be picked away at ad infinitum…

    That’s good, in the short term at least, for SF. Not least because they can kick the stuffing out of anyone who tries to make up for a 35 year drift in two or three tax years. Even if that kicking may not turn out so good for Ireland PLC in the longer term…

    And as a final aside, that’s a double whammy for the anti provo denizen’s of the Sindo this weekend…

  • gendjinn

    Mick,

    FF disemboweled local Government funding under the blessed Jack Lynch back in the 77 election.

    Income tax & VAT were increased to compensate for the abolition of the local government rates. The re-introduction of property taxes/rates on people now represents double taxation. Even more so now that bin collection is being privitised.

    Being taxed annually on an asset that does not produce income is a regressive and despicable taxation that should be abolished.

  • Mick Fealty

    So you are against fiscal disaggregation from central taxation and the empowerment of local ratepayers to hold their councils (and county managers) to account? I suspect you may not be. But you are free to “kick the stuffing out of anyone who tries to make up for a 35 year drift in two or three tax years.”

  • Alias

    The EU/IMF isn’t insisting that the government implements a household charge in order to redress some mythical ’35-year drift’. The ultimate point of it is to extract wealth from Irish citizens which is to be exported from the state for the express purpose of bailing-out overleveraged French and German banks.

  • Zig70

    A comparison with my southern dwelling brother shows we are earning similar take home and when I’ve been offerred jobs in the south the story is the same when you get to the bottom line. Southern wages slightly higher and taxed more. The story just highlights the SF threat. On the local v central side I’m not sure ni is that good a model, too many councils. A county system would be better.

  • Zig70

    Anyway, nobody here gets voted in on their economic prowess. Ain’t that a joke. One of Hume’s strengths and what the SDLP forgot about.

  • Mick Fealty

    Alias,

    True, but that does not disguise the fact that the whole system needs a complete overhaul. Ireland is the only country in Europe that has no form of household taxation.

    What’s the result? People get lammed with all kinds of surcharges and taxes that aren’t supposed to be taxes that makes it hard to account for both as a taxpayer (budgeting from one year to the next) and as a voter (trying to calculate what party is going to what damage your wallet.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Anyway, nobody here gets voted in on their economic prowess. Ain’t that a joke. One of Hume’s strengths and what the SDLP forgot about.

    To assume that no one votes based on economic issues when there are so many unemployed and part-time employed people with skills particularly outside of the tourism trade.

    I certainly checked the market for the best ideas for encouraging employment, and frankly it seemed that only the SDLP and the UUP gave it any real thought outside of the tourism and green bubble.

    On my own particular area, STEM and STEM employment… Sinn Féin proposed a skills audit for all the new QUB boomerangs who’ve been emancipated but couldn’t find work, while the DUP proposed a fiscal bribe in the form of some tax cut or loan rebate to STEM graduates, the Alliance party seemed to ignore the talents of Naomi Long here and jumped on the more vague Strategum platform of “need more STEM”. Two rather insane substitutes for actual jobs and a mantra that doesn’t create jobs.

    I suppose this coalition is still better than the one in Westminster at the end of the day.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Back on topic … Sinn Féin has every right to pursue two different economic agendas in different parts of the island. It just shows their attack on the SDLP and the Southern parties for not being all Ireland parties when they themselves are essentially a coalition of a Northern Sinn Féin and a Southern Sinn Féin is rather watery.

  • sdelaneys

    John O Néill “Rates (as a property tax) are set, levied, collected and spent by local authorities in the north. They are set as a flat rate, collected and spent centrally in the south (as a straightforward poll/asset tax rather than a local authority service charge)”
    Not correct John, only part of the rates go to local authorities for local use the rest going to Stormont to be spent centrally. Local councils set their element of the rates and the central authorities set their element with the two being combined as the bill facing the poor old ratepayer. Try finding out how much of your rates go to what is well nigh impossible.

  • aquifer

    The least bad ways to levy taxes is to encourage rational resource allocation.

    Building big McMansions in the middle of nowhere has big negative consequences.

    More capital has to be imported and financed in future to pay for too many houses that are too big and too expensively finished.

    More fossil fuels have to be imported to heat these homes and to get people to a from them.

    More revenue has to be expended to service the people in these homes, in terms of health and emergency services.

    Paying cash to build improve and maintain to many and too big homes is a vehicle for tax evasion and potentially money laundering.

    Too many and too large homes have become an expensive way of signalling status, one that has significant ongoing costs when compared to say buying art entertainment clothes or diamonds.

    More infrastructure has to be built to link them compared to smaller older homes in towns, including roads and electricity and gas mains.

    All in all, if higher rates stop housebuilding for ten years, this would be no bad thing.

    It is important that local authorities levy rates and are accountable, as there is too much ‘let someone else pay’ nonsense going on. Also LAs in the republic have tended to be a bit slack, so let the public sort them out now that they are certainly up for it. LAs were a big part of the too many big houses problem and they should ‘pay’ the political price.

    Oh and it is not double taxation, paying taxes twice for the same thing, usually in two jurisdictions. It is doubled taxation, to pay down debt incurred to prevent financial collapse, while continuing to provide social services such as health and education.

  • PaulT

    “I cannot help but refer to Sinn Fein who accept a relatively large property tax in Northern Ireland but are against it in the Republic.”

    It’s not often that you here the word “accept” in this context political parties are normally ‘for’ or ‘support’ or ‘in favour’ etc.

    So that word makes me ask the question, What is the process for SF to oppose the property tax in NI? Does Stormont have the power to change tax laws? Would they have to go into opposition? Would they have to collapse the Assembly and have new talks to change the GFA?

    Regardless of the answer to the above question, the on-going and growing traffic of politicans North and South meeting and speaking with the supporters of other parties is great to see and can only strenghten the all-Ireland dimension.

    I think SF will be pleased by the speech, but not sure about the UUP, unless it was an unfortunate error of judgement, the tone implies that any move north by FG with the SDLP will target the conservative\centre right voter, cos you don’t win the nationalist vote by slagging off SF, and the SDLP share is too small to be worthwhile

  • FuturePhysicist

    The issue of cross border contacts is welcome but by no means a blessing for Sinn Féin. By taking over the SDLP platform as the leading voice of northern nationalism it has found itself having to do Republic outreach as well as Unionist outreach not just as a reflection of the malaise during an economic recession but a severing out networks with pretty much every party in Ireland outside of the SDLP, and a few independents in the pursuit of an Irish unity for its 10-14% of island votes and the other 90-86% of those who would self-determine an Ireland vastly different from what Sinn Féin want.

    “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  • FuturePhysicist

    It seems to me that Sinn Féin, in my opinion lack the vision, leadership and experience to accommodate the vast majority of Irish people.

  • Mick Fealty

    Paul,

    You might as well ask, what process exists by which Lough Neagh can be taken into public ownership if the private owner doesn’t want to sell… Answer is, it doesn’t. But SF nevertheless convened a working group to see if it can be achieved.

    The party has *no position* on local taxation in the north or the south, where it’s merely against the household charge. Guerrillas travel light to effect the maximum damage to their opponents. In this case, SF are deliberately travelling without a policy of their own in order not to get pinned down in explaining what they might do instead.

  • PaulT

    “Irish unity for its 10-14% of island votes and the other 90-86% of those who would self-determine an Ireland vastly different from what Sinn Féin want.”

    Two things 1) your numbers are very out of date. Secondly, perhaps you will share what SF’s vision of a UI is, Mick and others have been asking for ages (PS, don’t forget the links)

    “It seems to me that Sinn Féin, in my opinion lack the vision, leadership and experience to accommodate the vast majority of Irish people.”

    Well thats a silly statement, the only two parties in recent memory to command anything near a ‘vast majority’ of people was New Labour under Blair and FF, neither hardly tick those boxes for skillsets.

    Check out Adam’s approval ratings to see how lonely your opinions are

  • PaulT

    Mick, so the answer is they can only do things when the other parties come on board, as with Lough Neagh.

    Sinn Fein has no policy on tax in NI because unionist parties oppose having any tax raising powers. thats the show stopper. So the question is why are unionists against having tax raising powers at Stormont?

    As for Ireland, their policy is simple and honest, local taxation is double taxation and its wrong.

    Which for anyone who understands local taxation in the UK its hard to disagree (I pay £1400.00 council tax PA, if my local tax was decided the same as Tower Hamlets I’d get a cheque for £450 from the Council, question why do I pay for local services but people in Tower Hamlets don’t, who pays for them, oh yeah, I do, cos my national tax is diverted to them, local taxation my arse)

    Just to point out Mick, that your latest debating style appears to demand that SF provide a finished policy document for every have baked possibility, was listening to BBC5 yesterday, several cities are going to vote on having an elected mayor. Funny thing is, the Gov will only decide what the Mayors role will be if people vote yes and not before.

    So in brief.

    NI local tax – no policy as no point, unionists say no

    Ireland local tax – policy is NO, cos its double taxation.

  • Barnshee

    “NI local tax – no policy as no point, unionists say no”

    Incorrect The assembly (LOL) have the power to vary houshold rates– a choice they have studiously avoided with all rating increases arising having been foisted on that poor bastrad the householder, by local authority component of the rates. These parasites get away with it because of the sectariand voting patterns ingrained in N I Society.

    Further, –largely economically illterate MLAs` ( SF partcularly) have been horrified to find that changes in taxation levels will cause those er nasty brits to reduce the subvention that keeps all those nonjobs in the public sector in place.

    The MLA`s have stark choices

    Rise more money by putting in additional taxes- Local income tax anyone? Water charges?

    Ask the treasury to ioncrease the tax rates applied in N Ireland and send NI the money— not I think a winner

    Put up the rates ? oh dear

    The gombeens are sitting comfortably on salary and expenses, avoiding material decisions,while the money slowly runs out. Will this bring any change ? don`t hold youir breath

    PS I would like ANY of the zombies to produce a taxation policy document. Jeers crust there MUST be some economists/taxation experts amongst them

  • Alias

    “Ireland is the only country in Europe that has no form of household taxation.”

    It’s also the only country in Europe where sovereignty is owned by the people and not by the government, so it doesn’t follow that its wrong just because all others hold a different position.

    “What’s the result? People get lammed with all kinds of surcharges and taxes that aren’t supposed to be taxes that makes it hard to account for both as a taxpayer (budgeting from one year to the next) and as a voter (trying to calculate what party is going to what damage your wallet.”

    And will these “surcharges and taxes” be revoked if the household charge is successful? Nope, so its just another form of taxation.

  • FuturePhysicist

    PaulT (profile) 23 April 2012 at 8:49 am

    “Irish unity for its 10-14% of island votes and the other 90-86% of those who would self-determine an Ireland vastly different from what Sinn Féin want.”

    Two things 1) your numbers are very out of date. Secondly, perhaps you will share what SF’s vision of a UI is, Mick and others have been asking for ages (PS, don’t forget the links)

    Sinn Féin would not be able to govern a United Ireland if it were to come into fruition, it’s still a small party on the Island as a whole. It’d either be a coalition top up or a minor opposition party. If you can tell me where the majority of non-Sinn Fein voters from other parties on the island share Sinn Féin’s vision come from and what democratic mandate they would bring to allow Sinn Féin’s vision in some part to be in a governmental capacity, I’ll retract my statement.

    10-14% is fair, some of the party still hold onto the fascist totalitarian IRA dogma that it’s more the government of Ireland than the one that is elected.

    ————————————————–

    “It seems to me that Sinn Féin, in my opinion lack the vision, leadership and experience to accommodate the vast majority of Irish people.”

    Well thats a silly statement, the only two parties in recent memory to command anything near a ‘vast majority’ of people was New Labour under Blair and FF, neither hardly tick those boxes for skillsets.

    Check out Adam’s approval ratings to see how lonely your opinions are

    I mean diplomatically, in all-Ireland talks or a united Ireland referendum it does more harm than good. The Good Friday Agreement to Republicans was a difficult compromise, but they would have to go a lot further in terms of sacrifices they don’t want to make to achieve Irish unity.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Ultimately it’s Sinn Féin who are lonely, and will be for another generation while the sackcloth and ashes the IRA have put on them remain, and while the Irish people reject them for their inabilities in the North and their ineffectiveness in the Republic.

    Loneliness is not a bad thing, there’s more to politics than craving attention, hopefully Sinn Féin will learn that lesson one day.