Wallace must take obligation to repay tax debt seriously

The non payment by Mick Wallace’s of €1.4 million VAT due on sales of apartments is disgraceful. When speaking on Morning Ireland after the story broke, his comments that the €2.1 million due to Revenue (including interest and penalties), would not be paid, itself indicated the gulf in his views on what is acceptable on these issues and those of ordinary working class people throughout the country and in his own Wexford constituency.

On Thursday 14 June Mick Wallace made a personal statement in the Dail. As part of that he stated that he will seek to come to an arrangement whereby half of his Dail salary would be used to help pay the outstanding bill with Revenue.

As the Socialist Party advocated in last year’s general election that all TDs should be paid wages equivalent to ordinary workers, Mick Wallace’s suggestion wasn’t really very significant as far as we are concerned. He should take seriously his responsibility to repay all the money outstanding.

All of Mick Wallace’s assets, ones he owns or co-owns, should now be factored into any payment deal. There should be changes to the limited liability laws which currently allow businesses to renege on paying monies they owe. If there are other assets where he is the beneficial owner, not the legal owner, but the real owner and beneficiary these should also be factored in.

The media, who tried to say that the Socialist Party didn’t condemn Mick Wallace enough, exposed the hollowness of its position when they refused to accept these proposals put forward by Joe Higgins in relation to the Mick Wallace’s finances and the need for all monies owed to be paid.

Evidentially the “outraged” media wasn’t so outraged at what Mick Wallace did, for it to support real measures that would impinge on the wealth of the rich and use it for the public good; the media’s agenda is clearly different.

The Socialist Party does not support or defend Mick Wallace’s actions in any way. He may not be one of the very big developers, who along with the bankers and politicians, constituted the “Golden Circle” and who stoked up the property bubble. However, he is a boss and a developer and he did profit significantly from the property bubble and from the hard work of his employees.

The Socialist Party did not support Mick Wallace but neither did we go along with the orchestrated calls in the media for his immediate resignation as a TD. We did not support that chorus for two reasons. 

It is clear that sections of the media wanted to use the Mick Wallace situation to try to legitimise an approach where they can create an irresistible pressure through intimidation and exaggeration to force political resignations. They want to build up their ability to intervene into events in order to prop up a weak capitalist establishment and try to stamp on anyone or any force that fights back against austerity.

They also wanted to specifically link Wallace’s wrong doing with the Left, even though there is no such political link, in an attempt to damage the credibility and the potential for the Left – both to lead struggles against austerity, like in the Household Tax, and build a mass political alternative.

We completely opposed Mick Wallace actions but we were also correct not to assist the rightwing media in forcing him out, because to do so would have helped the media increase its power. They tried to play the same role regarding David Norris in the Presidential Election and undoubtedly they are gearing up to try to undermine the credentials of left / socialist groups and ordinary activists who will fight back in the months ahead in the Household Tax battle.

Secondly, if the media was successful in its goal of forcing Mick Wallace’s resignation within days of the disclosure of non-payment that would have constituted the quashing of the democratic decision and rights of a substantial number of ordinary people in Wexford, who voted for him without any regard to how those people felt about the situation.

Instead the Socialist Party gives weight to the wishes and views of the 17% of voters, (over 13,000 people), who voted for Mick Wallace last February. Mick Wallace’s future should be determined by those who voted for him as opposed to being dictated by the unelected and biased media.

Independent Newspapers has been central in the campaign to force Wallace’s resignation and in attacking the Left on this issue. But their hypocrisy on this is breathtaking. The two biggest shareholders of the Independent Group are non resident for tax purposes and maximises their profits through blatant tax avoidance at the expense of ordinary people.

The claim that the Socialist Party is hypocritical because if this situation had involved a Fianna Failer or a Fine Gaeler, we would supposedly have demanded their head is simply wrong. As everyone knows there has been much wrong doing in political circles over recent years, yet it has never been the position of the Socialist Party to rush to demand the resignation of TDs. 

Politically the Socialist Party focuses on the policies that the system imposes as the causes of the problems facing working class people, not the individuals or personalities that are imposing them.

Resignations don’t usually represent a way forward or offer a major opportunity to fight back. Real change can only be achieved on the basis of mass struggle and the political reorganisation of the working class. These are the points that we emphasise.

Notwithstanding the huge propaganda campaign, we believed that many working class people and particularly those people who voted for Mick Wallace in Wexford, while opposing what he did, also see the media’s agenda and would oppose the chorus for resignation. This view has been confirmed by local polls in Wexford, where very large numbers have opposed the calls for Wallace to resign.

People in Wexford and generally will be disappointed by what Mick Wallace did and at how he has responded to this controversy. The people who were voting for Mick Wallace’s believed they were voting for change and since then he reflected the opposition in the community to austerity by the position he took in actively opposing  cuts to services and by coming out in opposition to the Household Tax. Unfortunately through his actions Mick Wallace has given the media and the establishment an opportunity to attack those campaigns.

Notwithstanding that we will do all in our power to fight austerity and in particular to defend and build the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) and prepare for the decisive battle that is likely to unfold this Autumn.

Mass struggle and connected to that, the building of a new party made up of the working class and young people which fights for a socialist alternative, is the way to really challenge the capitalist establishment. Regardless of the rotten role of the media, working class people, if organised and armed with socialist policies have the power and capability to run the country.