Wednesday 23 October 2019

We're strangled by our EU paymasters

James Fitzsimons

A YEAR has yet to pass since it came to power and the Government, having failed to deliver on its election promises, continues to disappoint. Like its predecessor, it has taken a very provincial approach to dealing with a national problem.

Bowing to the superiority of its EU paymasters, Ireland has been relegated to the status of little more than a concentration camp. Oblivious to the injustice of its actions, it doles out whatever punishment its taskmasters demand for our society.

It is clear that the primary objective in politics is to get elected, but once that job is done the system breaks down. Talk is cheap. Those who win these seats rarely show the abilities that are needed to deliver on their promises. Even with the best will in the world, they won't solve the problems if they don't possess the necessary qualification, experience and skills. It's a pity that many political winners don't always make good and effective governments and that those with the skills are hampered by the system in making things happen.

Simon Coveney, the Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food, holds the portfolio for our most valuable natural resources. He has a BSc in agriculture and land management, he comes from a farming background and he appears to approach the job with enthusiasm.

Mr Coveney has taken a tough line in his observer-role at the EU fish quotas negotiations which concluded in a deal early yesterday. But his feet appear to be firmly planted in the soil. We threw away our valuable fishing rights when we joined the EU. Now that we are impoverished, we should demand them back.

Other countries have sunshine and industry, we just have the land and the sea. One is under-utilised and foreign legalised poaching ravages the other. We need to claim back what is ours. What else do we have to pay for our public services?

Cod is an endangered species and our fishing boats

cannot land anything they catch. Instead they must dump their catch back into the sea, where it dies. What a waste. Dumping the catch is not the only control and it is certainly not the best one. It is something that was thought up by overpaid bureaucrats who are too far removed from our financial problems to see the stupidity of this.

Scientists may support this initiative, but that doesn't make it right. If our fishermen could sell the cod that entered their nets, they could pay tax and we would all be better off.

The entire value of illegal foreign catches should be given to the Irish State. We could use it to reduce our national debt.

Even if fishermen cannot be allowed to profit from the sale of cod, the proceeds from the catch should go to the State and our fishermen should be compensated for their costs. That would be better than what is happening now.

It is criminal to destroy these valuable resources to pander to the whims of incompetent Eurocrats. Our financial crisis will last forever, if we don't face up to the fact that it is being fuelled and perpetuated by a legal system that has proven to be unsound, unreliable and grossly inequitable.

When confronted by bad laws, they should be cast aside. If justice is not seen to be done, anarchy will thrive. The only difference between the two is that the balance of power is shifted. Meanwhile, the majority of law-abiding citizens will pay the price for these mistakes. Mr Coveney should with immediate effect replace bureaucratic stupidity with a common-sense approach to dealing with a complex problem.

The catch should be landed and the State should claim its value. He should claim compensation for what is caught by foreigners in our waters. We should expand our naval service, using EU funds, to defend our rights.

James Reilly, the Minister for Health, is another politician with relevant qualifications and experience. We are promised a public healthcare system that will treat everyone equally, but that could be a long time coming. After nearly 10 months in charge, it looks like it will never happen. If we could rely on its delivery, it would make sense for most people to abandon their private health insurance commitments.

Vulnerable people who have nothing left but their health are afraid to give up their insurance. Many have paid huge sums to schemes for years only to find in their time of need that what they paid counts for nothing.

It's the same with all insurance. If you miss a premium you can lose all your rights. If insurance companies and the State had negotiated better deals with doctors and hospital consultants, health insurance would be at manageable levels. We might even have a reliable public health system.

Healthcare professionals hold the real power that has kept costs so high. That stranglehold needs to be broken if we are to have a viable public healthcare system.

An outrageous amount of our national resources are being pumped into this sector, when we cannot afford it. How long will this be allowed to continue?

It would have been easier to cut €160m from what is being wasted in the healthcare system than to impose the new household charge on an over-taxed general public. The household charge is grossly inequitable and its introduction at this time is premature when there is such waste in the local authorities that should be fixed first.

Finance remains our biggest problem. The previous government committed our financial resources to bail out foreign banks that fuelled the financial crisis. The current one is continuing the work of the last.

While a growing debt crisis at home is devastating a large part of the population, more and more austerity measures are being applied. We are at breaking point. They might as well shut the door and throw away the key.

The household tax of €100 might generate €160m, but it is only the starting point. Most people accept the logic and the necessity for property taxes. But few see how it can be justified when they were ripped off with excessive stamp duty and other taxes. Now they will pay on the double.

The €100 charge is just to get everyone signed up -- the real damage will arise when the system increases it to fuel more public waste. It might be a drop in the ocean, but it is already ineffective, given that so many will be excluded and those who can afford to pay most will not pay what they could.

After all the austerity measures, the Government has done nothing to tackle the main problem created by financial commitments forced on an unsuspecting public by an inept government. That is its only legacy from the Celtic Tiger.

The Government needs to deliver on the promises that got it elected. It needs to help those in negative equity who have no prospect of recovering from their predicament. Those who created the problem should be forced to pay and the banks should shoulder the burden and treat their customers fairly.

But first it must detach itself from the control of the EU that is preventing recovery. We will remain as participating members, but no longer as victims.

James Fitzsimons is an independent financial adviser specialising in tax and financial planning

Sunday Independent

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