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Getting in a flap over Big Phil's new tax

MARIAN Finucane's panels are generally composed of oligarchs, members of the commentariat and political apparatchiks. But sometimes there's also room for populist folk heroes ... like solicitor Gerald Kean.

This week he turned his attention to his intention to avoid the property tax ... on one of his properties (his office had already paid the charge on another).

Gerald explained that this was because this government was "like the last government", explained his affinity with the common man, lambasted "pen-pushing bureaucrats" and went on a bit of a rant about expensive "quangos".

Quangos! How delightfully retro!

I hadn't heard the word in a while.


Well, whatever about "pen-

pushing bureaucrats" not all the members of the commentariat on the show were that enamoured with Kean's anti-quango, anti-property-tax stance. (Actually, I'm not sure he was standing. I like to think the gregarious Gerald may have been reclining on a divan, being fed grapes by a servant boy.)

"I hope you feel better after all that rant, Gerald," scolded Judge Catherine McGuinness and suggested that if he had evidence of wasteful quangos he should take it to the authorities. Kean responded by referencing the McCarthy Report.

McGuinness and her fellow commentarians Jim Power (economist), Sam Smyth (journalist) and Nora Owen (ex-minister/ quizmistress) were troubled by the notion of Gerald disobeying the law.

So they equated household taxation, a norm all over Europe, with something ordinary people would understand: socialising. €100 was the equivalent of a night on the town (really?), explained the Judge, while Jim Power revealed that "if you cut back on less than a half pint a week you'd pay your property charges."

I nearly spat out my morning beer, I was so offended.

"He is the man about town, the man of the feathers and he is beautiful ... cock of the walk," said Marie-Louise O'Donnell a few days later, but she wasn't referring to Gerald Kean.

No, those words were spoken about actual cockerels, as she described a visit to a poultry market. Before long she and Pat Kenny were explaining how baby chickens were made.

"They mate, as the fella says, 'like the resht of us!'" said Marie-Louise. "The hens are covered."

"That is the polite term," said Pat (he didn't mention the impolite one).

"The cockerel mounts the hen," continued Marie-Louise. "And that's what he does."

"He has to flap away," prompted Pat.

"He flaps away and he flaps away until she has accepted the flapping, as they say," said Marie-Louise. "And doesn't turn her head and peck him in the chest."

This moving depiction of thwarted chicken love felt analogous to the Government's handling of the Household Charge. It seemed particularly apt as I listened to Minister Phil Hogan flap away on the same programme the next day. "I would encourage you to pay this modest charge," he flapped.


On Moncrieff, Henry McKean interviewed some Castlebar residents and discovered that many would rather peck the flapping minister in the chest (figuratively speaking) than pay more taxes.

Then on The Last Word, Matt Cooper entered the chicken coop like a wily fox, caught Big Phil and gave him a good shake.

"You've made a hames of it," he said, before outlining a litany of failures regarding the introduction of the tax, noting that Hogan had once rejected a voluntary pay cut because "his personal circumstances wouldn't allow it".

He also joined the dots between local taxation and the findings of the Mahon Tribunal. "Are you confident ... that all the local authorities are deserving of this money?" he asked, before repeating allegations that Hogan had "nixed" a number of planning reviews. Hogan denied this, but it just sounded like more flapping.