The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Capitalist Veto

Liam O Ruairc • April 22 2003

The “Sunday Tribune” recently published a supplement on the 100 richest people in Ireland, North and South. This publication was very interesting, because it gave a good insight into the Irish capitalist class. The supplement estimated that about 50 000 people in Ireland could be considered very rich. This includes doctors, dentists, accountants, top civil servants. In 2002, the Revenue Commissioners revealed that under 10 000 tax payers reported an income over 150 000 Euro, with another 12 600 people in the 100 000 to 150 000 Euro income bracket. Things are more complicated, as thanks to the help of their accountants and tax advisers, many rich are able to hide their real income from the tax authorities. To quantify the decisive core of the native Irish capitalist class, with the bar set at an annual income of at least 150 000 Euro plus liquid assets of a minimum of one million Euro, the number of people drop to no more than 5000 or 6000. Of the top 100 richest people in Ireland, 27 come from the construction and property sectors, 12 from distribution, 8 from hotel and pubs, 7 from the food industry, and 6 from sport and entertainment. Only 11 come from a manufacturing background, 5 technology and 5 from finance. Those people, through their economic power have more influence in this country than ordinary people. We are told that we live in a “democracy”, that “the people” decide how the country is run. The citizens have an equal say, everybody can vote. So Sean in Ballymun or Mary in Tallaght have as much weight in running the affairs of this country than Tony O Reilly, Michael O Leary or Margaret Heffernan. But in practice, these people have far more influence than the ordinary citizens of this country.

Let’s take a recent example. Fianna Fail is a populist party, claiming to represent the interests of the ordinary man and woman. As everybody knows, there is a housing crisis in the South, and the majority of the citizens want decent and affordable housing. Early in April, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Irish Management Institute conference in Killarney: “I believe it is time that (property) development enriched the many and not the few,” and
promised he was going to solve the problem of affordable housing. However, behind this pious rhetoric is the fact that Fianna Fail ultimately represents the interests of the business people, construction and property owners. One just has to glance through the official publication celebrating the 75th anniversary of the party (Republican Days: 75 Years of Fianna Fail) to see more than 30 of the country’s leading property firms advertising in
it. Building firms finance many TDs, be they Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.

According to the “Sunday Tribune” (20 April 2003), in 2001 Fianna Fail received donations from

Treasury Holdings (21 432 Euro),
Ballymore Properties (10 767 Euro),
Cosgrave Developments (6 349 Euro),
Durkan Homes (9 829 Euro),
Maplewood Homes (3 911 Euro),
PJ Hegarty (5 587 Euro).

And the paper concludes “and that kind of money is nothing compared to the total sums thrown like confetti at individual politicians.” The Construction Industry Federation as a pressure group has an immense influence on shaping Fianna Fail’s policies, far more than ordinary constituents have. In March 2001, the Irish government abolished the anti-speculative tax it had introduced nine months earlier under pressure. Then in December 2001, Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy introduced attractive tax breaks for property investors. More recently, in December 2002, Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen diluted proposals contained in the Planning and Development Act which would have forced builders to allocate 20 percent of new private housing estates for social or affordable housing. Ahern and Fianna Fail, contrary to what they state, will never be able to solve the problem of affordable housing or enable property development to enrich the many because they are tied in with and dependant on property interests and are therefore incapable of pursuing a policy of confrontation with the builders, landlords and property owners.

If at the end of the day the rich are always going to have their say, no wonder many people don’t bother participating in elections. Citizens are formally equal but practically unequal. If democracy is to be meaningful this question has to be addressed. Various shades of Republicans are faced with this question: if serious about democracy, what are you prepared to do to remedy this inequality of power and wealth? How can you “cherish the children of the nation equally” when 5000 to 6000 people, because of their money have more influence than 500 000 or 600 000? There is/was much talk about the “Unionist Veto”, but Republicans have been silent too long about the “Capitalist Veto”.



 

 

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Index: Current Articles



27 April 2003

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

The Needle has Entered
Anthony McIntyre

 

Congress Must Investigate How Brian Nelson Lived in US

Fr. Sean Mc Manus

 

The Capitalist Veto
Liam O Ruairc

 

Easter Rising Statement
Oglaigh na hEireann

 

Letter to the Irish News
Tommy Gorman

 

Profiles in Hypocrisy
Maitiu Caomhánach

 

Do You Regret Being American?

Annie Higgins

 

Propaganda Stinkers

Paul de Rooij

 

24 April 2003

 

Collins Abu!
Tommy Gorman

 

Who Wants to be Non-Doctrinaire?
Jimmy Sands

 

Wooden Spoon
Anthony McIntyre

 

The Restoration of National Soverignty is Not a Right Wing Aspiration
Andy Martin

 

Shame, Shame, Shame
Aine Fox

 

Savage "New" Times Government Lie

Karen Lyden Cox

 

 

 

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