Temperature rises in the House as thoughts turn to property tax
Dáil sketch:B-Day is getting closer by the day.
Next Wednesday’s budget is edging the abortion debate sideways as people prepare for the dreaded fiscal tsunami.
The tempo was stepped up in the Dáil yesterday when Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was challenged on the property tax which will form part of the B-Day package.
The body language on the Government benches suggested that the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility was holding up, at least in public. Notes and whispered advice were offered by colleagues to the Tánaiste as he came under strong pressure.
In berating the Government, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald also had a swipe at the Soldiers of Destiny, the party’s competitor for dominance on the Opposition benches.
“The plan to tax the family home is straight out of Fianna Fáil’s four-year plan.’’
She accused the Government of implementing Fianna Fáil’s austerity plan.
But she was pleased that the Soldiers of Destiny, now opposed to a property tax, “had a Pauline conversion on the road to Damascus’’.
“That party now opposes its own policy, it seems, in a truly remarkable spectacle of political gymnastics.’’
Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins remarked dryly: “The deputy seems to be very worried about us.’’
Well, she would be, given that the battered but recovering Soldiers of Destiny have performed well in recent opinion polls.
McDonald then rounded on Gilmore, noting that there were 160,000 families in mortgage distress.
Gilmore pointed to Sinn Féin’s support for a property tax in the North. A house valued at £150,000 in Antrim was subject to a tax of £1,100; the owner of a house valued at £100,000 in Strabane paid £714, he said.
There were whoops of delight from the Labour backbenchers.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, who has responsibility for the charge, beamed.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton began writing furiously. Her note was passed to Hogan, who passed it down the line to Gilmore. There was unity in the face of adversity.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett struck a grim note. “It is incredible that poverty and hunger are stalking the land in the 21st century.’’ The Government, he said, planned to impose a tax between €400 and €500 annually on the homes of already struggling families.
Gilmore said he could assure people of the Government’s rational approach to dealing with the economic crisis.
Boyd Barrett suggested more revenue could be secured from an effective implementation of corporation tax.
“Do not be daft,’’ said Gilmore. “Deputy Boyd Barrett should get a grip. Stop shouting slogans at everything.”
When Boyd Barrett pressed the issue, he was advised by Gilmore to stop running around “like a blue-behind bluebottle waving slogans’’.
“With placards,’’ said Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher.
What will it be like, a matter of days from now, as the fallout from B-Day unfolds?