To Joe Higgins From Irish Left Review


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NamaWineLake has an excellent post on the relatively simple point that if the Kenny Report (first published in 1974) was implemented tomorrow the government could save the money that it expects to raise from the Household charge. Although capital programs have been cut back they are still acquiring land in order to build roads etc. The price of this land is not fixed but is based on the market and at the moment should the government expresses an interest in the land in order to build stuff on it, lo and behold the price changes.

“An acre of land might be worth €6-15,000 an acre in terms of its existing use, but once the State decides it needs it for infrastructure, that price can rocket to well over €100,000 an acre. Not convinced? Why not ask the Limerick land-owner who pocketed €10.4m for a contribution from his land-holding so that a tunnel scheme might have been built; indeed €56.5m was spent on land acquisition in that one Limerick scheme alone.”

The now well known recommendation was that the state should pay a 25% premium on top of the existing value of the land in the case of a compulsory acquisition.

NamaWineLake suggests that should this be implemented now the government could save itself  €160m on future acquisitions, the same amount that’s expected to be raised from the flat rate household charge on 80% of the homes in the South.

There is also a comment in the post about how successive governments which have included Fianna Fail, Labour, Fine Gael and the Green Party, have failed to implement the report even though many of them either championed it when it was published or inserted the promise to implement it into their Election Manifesto. There is a wonderfully bleak irony in the fact that the Green Party did so and then went on to rubber stamp the creation of NAMA which flies in the face of the recommendations of the Kenny Report.

It’s worth noting that the reason that NWL was able to link to the original report was because Conor scanned it and put it up on the web in June 2009 from one of the few copies that are publically available in the National Library. Since then only two people, as far as I know, have referred to it with a link – that is NamaWineLake and Gavin Sheridan of the Both are excellent bloggers but neither would describe themselves as leftwing.

Joe Higgins and the other TDs who are campaigning against the household charge are though. I listened to Joe talking on Pat Kenny earlier on this morning and it was obvious to me that Joe was on the winning side of the argument. Everything he said was right. He was calm, rational, and convincing. Importantly he was on top of the detail of the bill, including many of the draconian measure it includes around failure to pay. In fact it seemed that Pat Kenny was sympathetic although scandalously he was suggesting that people might be better off just leaving the country! Joe, however, correctly put the campaign against the household charge within the need to challenge the whole austerity program which was simply taking money from working people and using it pay off the banking debt.

But a campaign that potentially puts working people in an even worse position by being liable for serious personal debt when they do not pay is somewhat flawed from a practical point of view. How do you coordinate it? How do you support people when they are already under considerable financial pressure and with the amount of effort that is required to do so how can you possibly focus on the rest of austerity program and campaign against the failure of the enture system which is leading to the disolution of the Irish economy.

Would it not be better to focus on a simple suggestion that comes out of NWL’s post, to implement the Kenny Report in order to realise savings of the same magnititude? A simple quid pro quo: stop the household charge and instead implement the report.

The usefulness of this comes from the fact that there can be no rational objection to it. As NWL points out, with the 25% premium landowners are still getting a very good deal at a time when prices of land are continuing to fall. Surely when every available cent is being carefully counted and all available means of raising revenue examined, as we are constantly being told, this government would jump at such an opportunity?

Of course the suggestion would not be accepted. Indeed it would be feircely resisted. But that in itself seems like one of the most positive aspects of it. Then Leftwing TDs could demand to know why cannot be implement and to argue to the people that it shows how this country is really run.

And if they are still not sure why the Kenny Report has never been, and under this and any future rightwing government, would never be implemented they can always pick up a copy of Conor’s book Sins of the Father and turn to the chapter on housing which discusses the Kenny Report.

For Joe and anyone else who has not read the book the reason that the Kenny Report has not being implemented in part or in full is because the ‘comprador’ class in Ireland, that particularly disfunctional layer of people who control government and fuckup in business; populate and stymie the professions; crowd senior management with their tax accountancy and Smufit Business School qualifications negating all other forms of thinking and join daddy’s media company in order to ensure that no one who wants to work in media in this country goes off message cannot look beyond unproductive property speculation as a way as making money within Ireland. This is why, historically, profits earned by Irish based companies were not ploughed back into the businesses in order to build it, but were put into property speculation instead. Of course, not all of their money was put into property speculation. Most of it was and is still siphoned abroad.

So, Joe, ask Santa for a copy of Conor’s book for Xmas. Available in all good bookshops and as an eBook for trendy types who might be lucky to get a Kindle Reader in their stocking. An ideal Christmas present for those interested in cogently challenging the political establishment in order to build campaign based on the realities of the Irish economy.

For anyone else interested, here’s the Kenny Report. Don’t say that we didn’t give you anything.

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Donagh is the editor of Irish Left Review. Contact Donagh through email:

4 Responses

  1. Eolan

    December 21, 2011 1:34 pm

    I cant help but feel that Pat Kenny was sympathetic to Joe Higgins because he knows he is facing a large bill if the household tax is made progressive……

  2. Donagh

    December 21, 2011 2:55 pm

    Absolutely. And good point – I didn’t cop that while listening. That said, I would have thought that he’d be pro a universal flat rate charge as opposed to anything that would could be considered to be a tax on wealth.

    But he’ll no doubt argue viciously against a property tax as they exist elsewhere being introduced here.

    I could hear the cogs in his brain working when he made the point about working people deciding to leave the country rather than accept various charges. Instead of ‘working people’ though, he was thinking ‘my money’ tons of which has been sunk into property here.

  3. Michael

    December 21, 2011 11:41 pm

    Why are some of the left in similar vein to the author of this post appearing to be a bit embarrassed by the nature of the campaign against this tax. This is more patronising nonsense again about more ‘deserving’ issues worthy of campaigns as if Joe Higgins et al never highlight such issues such as land speculation. I suspect left liberals are uncomfortable with the militant nature of the campaign.Do they prefer to think that the persuasive power of their arguments are all that is needed to reverse the vicious assault on the working class in this country? The reality is that there is no nice clean way of reversing these taxes and any meaningful resistance to the whole programme of austerity is going to put those fighting against it into conflict with the state. This is clear to most people and the suggestion that people are being led blindly by the campaign into potential huge debts is wrong.

  4. Donagh

    December 23, 2011 12:19 pm

    First of all, I love the self congratulatory tone of “a bit embarrassed by the nature of the campaign against this tax”, the reference to its “militant nature” and the equating of that with a ‘left liberal’ response. Oh if only these people would lose their middle class foibles about protest and realise that shits about to get real.

    Perhaps those who have questioned the strategy have identified themselves as ‘left liberal’, but the inference that I am is objectionable – where did you get that from and how is it relevant to what I have discussed? Why is a questioning of SP and SWP positions seen as ‘left-liberal’. Why can’t it be far more radical than SP and SWP are willing to imagine? It is also rather typical of much of the discourse on the left to label people as being of this or that strand in order to strengthen the sense of the ‘hardness’ in their own position. Basically it’s the first tactic to move the discussion away from those of ideas to one where the interlocutor is more comfortable.

    This tax is extremely unpopular which is the main reason, I suspect, why this vicious government has moved quickly upon its introduction to declare that failure to pay the tax will mean that the fine for not doing so will be taken directly from their wages, basically the same thing which was tried in Greece. They are also fast-tracking a property tax. This will be another disaster of course, reducing the income of already hard pressed workers. We would have to be extremely naive to imagine that this is something that was thought up at the last minute. It’s a way of solidifying an increasingly inequitable tax system designed to protect wealth and place the burden on the majority of workers.

    I’m aware that Joe Higgins and others have challenged land speculation and campaigned effectively to raise it. But most of the time its all about greedy developers and bankers gambling debts being placed on the backs of ordinary people – true but we need a better understanding than that. The point about the Kenny Report, is to say that if there’s an argument to try and increase government revenue in order to reduce the deficit then there are already more effective means to do this without taking more from income earned through labour (which as we know is not working to reduce the deficit).

    The resistance from the government to this move would illustrate the ‘power relations’ in Ireland, how they are not interested in the slightest in reducing the deficit by increasing revenue from money that is readily available from speculative income generated by way of government action that is going to happen anyway.

    So people will not register for this tax and they will not pay, and the government will impose that payment through a fine based on their ESB accounts. Legally they will be obliged to pay and the government through new legislation that this majority government of thieves will take the money from their accounts leaving them poorer. Those who do it will have the support of everyone, more than likely. But will the numbers needed to make this campaign effective actually not pay? I don’t think this is likely given the repercussions from them generally. And the government will still say: there is nothing we can do, we are under an IMF/EU program – a property tax is required under the memorandum of understanding.

    That is not to say that I am against as many forms of civil disobedience being brought against austerity as possible. In this we are severely weakened by a stupid senior trade union leadership, but in 2012 there has to be huge popular resistance to what this government is doing and plans to do for the next four years.

    But people also need to know what is happening, why this is happening and why in Ireland it continues to happen. We have to undermine their ‘poor mouth’ bullshit and show that the decisions that they are making now follow a particular pattern that has been established for a considerable period before this ‘crisis’.

    Basically they are destroying the domestic economy in the interests of financial capital.

    On the ‘militant nature of this campaign’ – for me, personally, its not embarrassing to be aware that the SP and SWP are political parties with parliamentary representation and therefore with a parliamentary political strategy in mind. I can’t help but wonder if they are using this very unpopular and iniquitous tax which is obviously against working people as part of some future election campaign, even though the consequences for those people taking part will fall on the people themselves. The resources required to fight it will also mean that less is available to fight against the broader march towards permanent austerity.

    Unless of course you think that the left is stronger in Ireland than I imagine and if that is the case then I am clearly some left-liberal moron and I should keep my thoughts to myself.