Does it really need to be repeated that what the Independent Dáil deputy for Wexford, Mick Wallace did in 2008 in withholding VAT payments on buildings sold, was utterly wrong? It seems so because sections of the right wing media are on a malicious and underhand drive to try and spread guilt by association to other Opposition deputies who, according to Dáil Standing Orders utilise, like Wallace, the only method available to them to make a meaningful intervention in the national parliament which is the device called the Technical Group. There can only be one Technical Group and it is for any elected members who are not in political parties recognised as separate units because they have seven or more deputies.
The second thing that needs to be said is that Mick Wallace must pay all that he owes to the Revenue. There should be no question of using company law to restrict a tax liability to one company that was bankrupt when the same owner has several others that may have considerable assets. I have no idea what assets Wallace owns but whatever exists, including the Dail salary, must be applied to paying the liability.
It was quite noticeable that, despite the massive coverage in many newspapers, there was no enthusiasm among them – businesses themselves – for changing the limited liability laws that operate here and enable very profitable parent companies to, for example, renege on paying workers made redundant from satellites because of trading difficulties or losses. (And for clarity I am not saying that there are any issues in this regard in Wallace’s case.)
Mick Wallace was elected in Wexford in the General Election with 17% of the vote. He topped the poll because, although being a substantial enough developer in serious difficulties, they perceived him as being different to the political establishment having opposed the invasion of Iraq in 1993 and opposed the austerity measures against working class people to save the European financial markets system. Since being elected Wallace took a strong stand in support of constituents in a number of instances against, for example, the callous cuts to Special Needs Assistants in primary schools and the imposition of the new austerity burden of the Household Tax. Many of his constituents will be extremely disappointed with the current developments.
The right wing press has seen an opportunity to attack, not just Wallace’s tax evasion, but also some of the campaigns he supported as well as other Dail deputies and political groups like The United Left Alliance who are to the forefront of these campaigns. There is an insinuation that they were soft on Wallace’s indefensible actions because he was part of the Technical Group or had supported similar campaigns.
Those on the Left who don’t immediately jump to the demands from the more strident elements of the media for Wallace to be removed forthwith from the Dail are being smeared particularly. Failure to demand resignation is being equated with condoning. It was dishonestly stated that had it been a Fianna Fail or Fine Gael deputy in the same situation as Wallace, we would be immediately demanding peremptory resignation. Not so. Ten years ago I did call for the resignation of Liam Lawlor and a Bye-election in Dublin West. But that was after he had been in jail for the third time for not assisting a Tribunal looking into corruption and his constituents, who were also mine, were at the end of their patience over issues that had dragged on for years.
Much of the media actively push the austerity agenda which hammers working class people to pay the bankers and bondholders of Europe. The more stridently right wing elements routinely insult and denigrate the elected deputies who actively campaign against this policy and see the Wallace issue as a further opportunity to do that. It would be an extremely dangerous precedent to fall in line with their shrill demands rather than first of all respect the democratic rights of the nearly one fifth of the voters in Wexford who put Mick Wallace in the Dail.
The Troika in its most recent report on the austerity programme is clearly perturbed about the massive opposition to the Household Tax. The Irish Independent in banner headlines described the 50% of regular taxpayers who are boycotting as ‘tax dodgers’. Somewhat hypocritical! Independent Newspapers’ biggest shareholder saved himself over €60 million through tax exile on the profits of the sale of the second mobile phone licence awarded him by the State for a pittance. No question that the finger should be pointed toward Mick Wallace to pay every penny of the tax he owes. But then continue to point the same finger at others who use the tax laws made by political parties which they funded to avoid paying massive amounts of tax quite legally.
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