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Michael O'Doherty: If putting tax bills on the long finger is theft, we'll need a bigger courthouse

My name is Michael O'Doherty, and I'm a delinquent and a thief.

Some years ago, you see, my publishing business ran into trouble.

Expanding too quickly, naive in terms of when we expected the company to break even, and with our bank unwilling to give us a loan, we were faced with the dilemma that hits so many businesses -- who do you pay, and who don't you?

So we were forced to prioritise. We paid our printers, or we wouldn't have had a magazine, and hence a business. Likewise for the small number of full-time staff in the office, and our contributors and photographers. And after we had paid our rent, electricity and phone bills -- again a necessity -- we simply didn't have any money left.

We were conscious that the tax we'd been withholding from the staff's salaries, and the VAT that we were talking in as part of our magazine sales, wasn't being sent to the Revenue as it should.

Thinking the situation would improve, we'd put it on the long finger, hoping to survive. And just as we'd managed to keep our heads above water for another month, the staff's salaries became due again... And so it goes on and, before you know it a year has passed, you've still no money in the bank, and you still haven't paid the Revenue a penny.

What we did wasn't right, but we did what we had to do to stay in business, hoping all along to dig ourselves out of the hole.

We were lucky to have set up our company at a time when the economy was just starting to boom, so when business did pick up, we paid the Revenue off, bit by bit, over the next two years.

There has long been a perception that rich people who cheat always escape conviction.

Nothing enrages the average taxpayer more than the sight of rich bankers and property developers, who owe millions and have directly contributed to the mess this country is in, relaxing in their holiday homes abroad and plotting their next attempt to avoid paying their debts.


So it's to be applauded that white collar crime is being tackled with as much vehemence as the more lurid types we always read about.

Simon and Christian Stokes, whose private members club Residence is slipping slowly but inexorably from their grasp, have been labelled 'thieves' and 'delinquents' for how they ran their business. They have done wrong, about that there's no doubt.

They got their sums wrong, saddling themselves with a huge debt from day one, which was always going to be difficult to pay off unless their club was an instant success. And, like me, they dug themselves into a hole.

In an ideal world, of course, most of us would pay all our bills, especially our Revenues ones, promptly and efficiently.

The economy in Ireland, however, has been far from ideal of late. And if what Simon and Christian Stokes did -- to pay their staff and suppliers first, and make the Revenue the last people on their list -- makes them thieves, then surely every company director in Ireland who's currently in that position should face arrest.

And if that's the case, then we're going to need a bigger courthouse...

Oh look it's...yer man off that old TV show

Is it just me (yes, Michael, it is just you ... ) or were there thousands of contestants on TV3's recent Apprentice? Everywhere I go, there's someone being introduced to me as "so and so off The Apprentice".

In the past week I've met four, three from the last series (all of whose names I remembered), and one off the previous series, whose name I've totally forgotten.

And it struck me how much of a double-edged sword these things are. You get the profile, the invites to glitzy showbiz parties, but you're always known for your TV persona, rather than what you did before or after.

It's fine in the short-term, but is there anything sadder than the people who are forever known for that one thing they did years ago, which they are constantly introduced to you as by well-meaning third parties

Ray Shah, lovely bloke and very good on the radio, is always 'Ray from Big Brother'.

Actor George McMahon, though he gave up the part years ago, will suffer a lifetime of being called 'Mondo from Fair City'.

And the Apprentice contestant from the first series I met on Saturday will always be 'that one who cheated on The Apprentice'. Sorry, I still can't remember her name ...

Doctor in the house? No, a real doctor...

SAY what you like about the legal profession, at least you know when you call someone the ‘Honourable Justice So and So’ that they’ve earned their stripes.

So how galling it must be for the medical profession, who've gone through years of complex training, that people with no medical expertise whatsoever put Dr in front of their name.

I've nothing against honorary doctorates handed out by universities, often to past students and to people who've excelled in their field.

What bugs me is the kind of people who use the conferring of this title as a life-altering (ie. name-altering) event.

Suddenly, the abbreviation Dr appears in front of their name on their personalised stationery.

Then, pathetically in need of other people's admiration, they ask to be addressed as such, because they feel that it adds gravitas to their demeanour; that people will think more highly of them because some college society got a bit of publicity for itself by handing it to them on a plate.

If you want to be called Dr, and have saved someone's life recently, I'm happy to do so.

If you want to be called Dr, but have never saved anyone's life, I hope you don't mind if I call you twat.