Socialist Party statement on Mick Wallace tax controversy

Mick Wallace’s failure to pay the original sum of €1.4 million in VAT is disgraceful, unacceptable and indefensible.

Mick Wallace was elected to the Dail in the general election in Wexford with 13,329 votes, the highest personal vote in that constituency since 1945. Undoubtedly it was because many ordinary people perceived him to stand for something completely different to the political establishment because of his previous opposition to the invasion of Iraq and opposition to the bailout of bondholders and austerity at their expense. This revelation will have disappointed many people who saw him in this light. Mick Wallace has also given the media and the establishment an opportunity to attack, and to try to undermine, the political campaigns that he has been associated with such as the Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes.

The role of the right-wing media

The Socialist Party has called on Mick Wallace TD to pay back every cent that is owed. These unpaid taxes should be repaid from whatever resources Mick Wallace has at his disposal, including his Dail salary.

However the Socialist Party has not joined the frenzied chorus in the media demanding Wallace’s immediate resignation. In taking this position we believe we are reflecting the view of many ordinary people in Wexford and of those who voted for him, who condemn what he did but who don’t believe it means he shouldn’t be a TD to represent their area.

Since the revelation of Wallace’s failure to pay the VAT sections of the media and some representatives of right wing political parties have been demanding that he resign forthwith from the Dail. Mick Wallace’s action is completely unacceptable but the media and these politicians have shown no respect for the democratic wishes of those who elected him.

The media are not impartial observers. A substantial part of the media is owned by billionaires and millionaires who have a vested interested in pushing a right wing political agenda. No doubt Wallace provoked their ire when he opposed the bondholder bailout and opposed extra austerity measures such as the home tax and campaigned against the Austerity Treaty in the recent Referendum.

Independent News and Media is owned by two tax exiles – tax dodgers – one of whom has become a billionaire as a result of obtaining the second mobile telephone licence in this State courtesy of major inside information received from a Fine Gael Minister to whom he paid large amounts of cash as the Moriarty Tribunal revealed. Independent New and Media and the majority of the media support the establishment parties and defend the capitalist market and the current anti-working class austerity agenda.

The media are forthright in pursuing a right wing political agenda and have attempted to intervene and distort the democratic process and undermine those it believes threaten the establishment, as was seen in the presidential election and the recent referendum. The Socialist Party believes that it is crucial to stand up against the media’s attempt to pretend to stand for accountability and democracy in determining who should be in the national parliament while in reality it is trying to railroad its pro capitalist agenda.

The media should not have the power to determine who is a public representative or be allowed to drive people from office by riding roughshod over the democratic rights of the electorate. The people of Wexford should pass judgement on Mick Wallace through the ballot box at the next available opportunity they have to vote.

Hypocrisy of the establishment

The Socialist Party was the first to demand that Mick Wallace should pay whatever taxes he owes. There can be no “Chinese wall” between the debt that is owed by Wallace’s companies and his own personal assets. Mick Wallace, (or any other developer, or big business person) should not be allowed to use company law to avoid meeting his tax obligations. PAYE workers cannot avoid paying their taxes. For too long in this country millionaire developers and big business have been able to use laws, designed to protect their wealth, to avoid paying their taxes and their debts.

When Joe Higgins TD, raised these points on the Pat Kenny Show (RTE Radio One), Pat Kenny demurred on the basis that limited liability was to prevent a situation where related companies to a bankrupt one could be closed down with job losses. But current laws do not take into account what profits, resources and assets such companies might have.

There is massive hypocrisy among the political establishment on taxation issues. In 1993, The Fianna Fail /  Labour government brought in a tax amnesty for the super rich, which it is thought outright gangsters and criminals were also able to avail of. When Joe Higgins won a seat in the Dail in 1997 he often demanded that the cloak of secrecy around this tax amnesty be removed and its secrets revealed. Needless to say that did not happen. In 1999 Fine Gael paid £111,110 (punts) to the Revenue Commissioners in 1999 for PAYE and PRSI, which it had not paid, and penalties for paying staff under the counter for nine years previously.

United Left Alliance bear no responsibility for the actions of other TDs

Many ordinary people view what is happening in the millionaire owned media as imbalanced and can see that they have an agenda. This is not about making big business or the rich who avoid paying their taxes accountable – this is an opportunity for the media and sections of the political establishment to try to link Mick Wallace to the left and to use his tax issues, in a dishonest way, as a weapon to try to discredit the left.

There has been a conscious attempt by the media and some right wing politicians to politically connect the independent TD and property developer, Mick Wallace, to the Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance. In doing so the billionaire owned media are attempting to damage the ULA and the Socialist Party. Mick Wallace has actively supported campaigns such as the Special Needs Assistants and Parents group fighting against the reduction in SNAs and the Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes. Some other independent TDs have done likewise. This does not make the Socialist Party or the ULA politically responsible in anyway for them or Mick Wallace.

Attempts have also been made to distort the nature of the Dail Technical Group, with an attempt to portray it as a political party or an alliance. This is totally false. The Technical Group is the arrangement under the Dail Standing Orders by which independent deputies and small parties with less than seven deputies secure speaking rights and can put priority questions to government Ministers. It is purely a technical arrangement and therefore the Socialist Party and the United Left alliance bear no responsibility for the actions of any independent deputies any more than they do for members of all the other parties in the Dail.

Media will not distract from the fight against austerity

The right wing media are attempting to damage the Socialist Party and the ULA because of the potential that exists for the left to grow in the next period, which is shown by the very successful campaign against the household tax and the 40% no vote in the referendum. The Socialist Party and the ULA can make significant gains at the next general and local elections and this will represent a real threat to the pro-austerity parties and their cheerleaders in the media. There is no doubt they also wish to weaken some of the independent TDs who opposed the austerity agenda, spoke out against it and campaigned against it in the referendum campaign.

The Socialist Party will not be deflected from waging a struggle against austerity. The government is fine-tuning its plans to issue threatening letters to the majority of householders who have refused to pay the Household Tax. These letters will be disgracefully followed up by dragging decent ordinary people before the courts – when not one developer, banker or business person has been held accountable for the economic disaster that they inflicted on this country. The government plans to impose another €8.6 billion in austerity measures, as well as water and property taxes. These are the issues that the Socialist Party is focused on, building mass movements and resistance against the governments attacks in order to defend the interests of the majority of people, not the profits of the rich.

The Socialist Party has not joined in with the media chorus calling for Mick Wallace to resign, we believe that to do so would set a dangerous precedent and give credence to the idea that the media and sections of the establishment should have the power and the right to overturn the democratic decisions made by the people. The Socialist Party completely opposes what Mick Wallace did and unlike the vast majority of the media and the right wing politicians who are calling for his head, we are demanding that he pay the €2.1 million taxes that are owed from whatever resources he has at his disposal.