Monday 18 December 2017

'I am quite ideological'

John Manning

A NEW Fine Gael councillor in the Howth/Malahide ward said he is worried the new council has moved too far towards a 'left agenda' and he wants to be an alternative voice on the right.

Former PD member, and now Fine Gael county councillor, Keith Redmond said it was his political ideology that got him involved in party politics.

He explained: 'I am quite ideological. A lot of people come into politics on the back of local issues or involvement in community groups but I'm certainly more interested in issues like tax and social welfare spend and I'm worried we are moving too far towards a left agenda at the moment.

'Almost understandably in the circumstances, people are looking for the State to sort of 'mind' them and I'm quite fearful of that because anywhere it's been tried, it has failed.

'I was drawn into politics for that reason, as a result of seeing nobody really standing up for the other point of view.'

Explaining his political background, Cllr Redmond said: ' First of all I was in the Progressive Democrats and I ran in the General Election in 2007 but that was really a poster campaign and an attempt to get my name and face out there for a potential run in the local elections - there was never an intention or expectation of winning a Dáil seat.

'Then obviously, the PDs imploded and it was a case of figuring out where I wanted to go. I spent a couple of years just sitting back and figuring out where I would be most at home.

'There is definitely a PD wing in Fine Gael and a lot of the PDs folded into Fine Gael. I see the PDs as almost a lost tribe of Fine Gael.

'The personalities in the PDs came out of Fianna Fáil but I think the ideology came out of Fine Gael and it was almost a reaction to Garrett FitzGerald being Taoiseach at the time and he was quite a social democrat.

'In a way, he kind of drew away from the neo-liberal, Christian Democrat wing of Fine Gael and I think the Christian Democrats definitely felt that he was not their Taoiseach. Personally speaking, I think Garrett FitzGerald was the first Labour Taoiseach.'

An opportunity to run for the council came up in the Howth/Malahide ward this time around when long-serving Fine Gael councillor, Joan Maher stepped down and Cllr Redmond threw his hat in the ring.

On his predecessor, he said: 'Joan served as a councillor for 29 years, the concept of serving as a councillor that long is just awe-inspiring. They are huge boots to fill. Every door I knocked on, they knew Joan.

'Joan's been really good to me - she's helped me get to know the people I need to know in the area and taught me a lot about how the council works.'

Cllr Redmond is well known in Sutton as a dentist and he lives in Malahide, so unusually, he has a foot in both sides of the ward. He joked that when he canvassed in Sutton, his patients thought he was making 'house calls'.

The campaigning paid off and Cllr Redmond claimed the seat and crossing the line felt good for the new councillor. He said: 'It was great, it was a wonderful feeling. Really, that was a life's ambition and for it to actually happen - well, I was like a giddy schoolgirl really. All the coolness I had planned to react with, just went out the window.'

The councillor has some big ideas in the area of taxation particularly, and he is happy that councillors now have some tax-raising, and more crucially, tax-lowering powers, when it comes to the property tax.

He said: 'Looking after local issues is vitally important and that's not just something you say - it is really important. But, I am more interested really in the fact that for the first time since the 1970s, the local councillors are now responsible for property tax or rates as it was then so we now have tax raising and tax lowering powers and that's extremely exciting for someone with my ideological perspective.

'As it happens, peculiarly enough, all the parties are in favour of lowering this tax.

'It comes down to this - everyone has to pay it and this feeds in to my belief when it comes to income taxes too. A huge amount of politicians call for increases in income taxes because their electorate don't pay them.

'But when it comes to property tax, everyone is paying it so they are putting their politicians under pressure to reduce it.

'My theory is that everyone should be paying taxes and if you're not paying them, you shouldn't be calling for them to increase or calling on increases in spending.'

Cllr Redmond believes in a flat income tax rate - he suggests around 30% with a tax-free allowance of around €12,000. He rejects criticism that a flat income tax rate is 'regressive' and said that under the radical system 'everyone contributes according to their means so there's nothing regressive about it'.

He added: 'I'm from Finglas, and from a working class background. I regard a lot of people in Labour, for example as champagne socialists, who are not from a working class background.

'They say they are all about the working class but when someone from a working class background does well, they want to punish them.

'The tax system they call progressive, is really a progressively punitive tax system - the more you strive and succeed, the more it punishes you.'

Cllr Redmond said: 'When people say they want people to be more equal, what they are effectively saying is that we want to drag them back instead of letting people get ahead.

'None of that ideology is about providing ladders for people to climb, it is about chopping other people's ladders in half.'

He said he is looking forward to expressing his ideology in the council chamber: 'At the moment, I'm really happy I got elected. That voice needs to be at a local level.

'When you sit in the council chamber and you hear the same sort of ideology being parroted around, it gains a sort of validity that it's the only show in town.

'When you have counterpoint arguments presented, you begin to make people think and voters start to think maybe there is more than one way to look at this.

'People say if you tax the rich more it will fix everything. It's total nonsense but if you hear it often enough you start to believe it.

'An economy and a society has to be based on striving for individual gain and as a result, dragging society with them.'

He believes a 'huge backlash' is coming for left-wing councillors who promised too much at the recent local elections.

Cllr Redmond said: 'You are going to see a huge backlash against left-wing politicians because they promised ridiculous things.

'The Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit, Sinn Féin to a certain degree, have made exactly the same mistake Labour made in the General Election of 2011 - they promised people things they simply can't deliver.

'You can't abolish water charges or property tax as a councillor - that's impossible. The notion that was even on the table was to my mind, disingenuous and I think it was dishonest.'

Fingal Independent

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