Sunday 25 February 2018

Dublin lobby on property tax narrow minded

SMALL THOUGH Ireland is, it sometimes seems like two countries, made up not of North and South but those inside the pale and those outside - a troublesome lot who have been nothing but a source of bother this past 800 years and more.

It's all well and good to visit remote parts like Westport, Dingle or Tramore for a week, have a pint in their quaint pubs and marvel at their bucolic behaviour. 'Staycations' are in the national interest after all. But we don't need to carry the country cousins on our backs - or so would seem to be the view of a trenchant coterie of Fine Gael backbenchers.

This Dublin Set is very exercised at the moment by the property tax, which is due to start taking a hefty chunk out of taxpayers' pockets from July. However, the concern of the Dublin Set is not just with the property tax per se but with the horrifying thought that the home owners of Dublin will be carrying the rest of the country on their backs.

Dublin South Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell represents this view nicely. 'I bitterly resent having to pay this [property tax] because we are paying for the rest of the country. We do it already in terms of income tax, where Dublin subsidises the rest and here is another tax doing the same.'

Ms Mitchell's case is based on the fact that Dublin property prices are higher than the national average and that Dublin property owners will therefore be forced to pay a disproportionate share of the €500 million the value-based property tax is designed to extract. Ms Mitchell's view is shared by, among others, her Dublin South East colleague, Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy, who describes the property tax as "a fiscal transfer from urban areas to rural areas". In his view the tax is 'grossly unfair to people living in Dublin'.

These Dublin 'revolutionaries' plan to lobby Finance Minister Michael Noonan in an effort to persuade him to alter the structure of the property tax before it is implemented in July. If they were to succeed in their campaign then one must assume the tax would be reconfigured so that Dublin property owners pay less and home-owners 'outside the Pale' pay more.

The Dublin Set's defence of their own little realm is admirable in its own way but it is appalling in its narrow-mindedness. Surely they must have forgotten how Bertie Ahern's Government directed the bulk of the billions of euro spent on infrastructure development towards Dublin and the sprawl of dormitory towns feeding the metropolis. Meanwhile in rural Ireland, drivers continue to navigate their way around pot-holed, substandard roads.

And, it so happens that property prices in rural Ireland aren't always in the bargain basement category. In many of the more scenic parts of the country, locals can't afford to live in their home place because property prices have been artificially inflated by the demand for holiday homes

These are indeed hard times. They're hard for everybody and, as Enda Kenny might say, we all need to put a shoulder to the wheel. It's a laudable sentiment but one that is certainly not helped by some of the whingers within his own party.

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