Joe Higgins responds to Mick Wallace’s false claims

In an interview with Marian Finucane, on RTE on 6 October, Independent TD Mick Wallace said that he had informed me about his tax evasion and falsification of VAT returns long before these became public knowledge. Claiming to be surprised about my ‘negativity’ following the revelations of his actions, he said, ‘I told Joe about [the under declaration of the VAT] months before that and he didn’t seem near as perturbed about it…. it really only became a big issue for people like Joe when the media hounded him.’

Mick Wallace also indicated that there was an established connection between he and I since the end of the GAMA exploitation scandal in 2005, when I did enquire if he had work for destitute former workers of the Turkish construction company.

Both these assertions are absolutely false and a contemptible attempt to diminish the significance of his serious tax evasion. It is also a very cheap attempt to imply that I am a hypocrite and undermine my and the Socialist Party’s political credibility.

Lazy and sometimes malicious journalism claimed that the Socialist Party was initially ‘soft’ on Wallace’s tax evasion. Some also claimed that our refusal to call for his resignation as a TD at the time was evidence of softness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I took a very forthright position when speaking to journalists on the very same day as the issue became public and I heard it for the first time.

I condemned his actions and demanded that the money be repaid forthwith from whatever resources Mick Wallace had, whether protected by company limited liability or not.

Furthermore I and the Socialist Party demanded of Clare Daly, who was then a Socialist Party TD, that she should break her political connection and support for Mick Wallace which was wrong, was being highlighted in the media and damaging the standing of the party as a principled Left organisation. (We never made any reference or demand regarding her private or personal friendship with Mick Wallace). 

On our insistence that there should be no further political connection, Clare Daly resigned from the Socialist Party on 30 August.

Far from the Socialist Party bending to pressure from the media as stated by Mick Wallace or making a political mistake or being ‘soft’ by not calling for his resignation, as others have said, the party took a principled position.

We opposed the attempt by sections of the media to use the justified anger at Mick Wallace’s disgraceful and unjustifiable tax evasion, to establish for themselves more power to dictate who should or shouldn’t be a TD. It’s Wallace today but undoubtedly the right-wing media would use such power to attack Left TDs and activists in the future.

If I and the Socialist Party had demanded Mick Wallace’s resignation, that would have increased the momentum behind the media’s campaign and such acquiescence would be rolled out and used in the future when the same media will demand the resignation of TDs who may justifiably break laws in defence of the rights of working class people.

From the start, I and the Socialist Party were very firm in our opposition to both the actions of Mick Wallace and of sections of the media.

For the record, the only conversation that I ever had with Mick Wallace which contained any mention of his financial position lasted seconds and was on the way out of the Dail Chamber at a time last year when it was widely reported in the media that the banks were moving against him. I made a sympathetic passing comment to him about the personal pressure he must have been experiencing and he made a non-descript, non-detailed, standard response about his situation and that was it.

His implication that I had talked to him in some detail about the money he had withheld in VAT and then about the money he owed to subcontractors is simply outrageous.

Regarding his employment of some GAMA workers, I like many other activists involved in the GAMA dispute asked people to consider if they could give some work to GAMA workers after the strike finished because of the desperate position some of them were in.

A particular group of approximately five GAMA workers, who had gained little from the strike as they had been brought to Ireland only a few months before the strike began, approached us for assistance. We had no connection with Mick Wallace but contacted him via his office and participated in a brief meeting where we introduced these workers to him on the chance that perhaps some work might come up.

I and the Socialist Party would not normally make such representations but these were exceptional circumstances. Over time he took on the workers for varying lengths of time.

Mick Wallace gave these workers jobs because there was work and they worked hard and undoubtedly the company made significant profit from their efforts.

We approached Mick Wallace because these workers were desperate and asked us for help and that is all. For the record, I was later invited to and attended a function that Mick Wallace organised in his café bar in Inchicore, as I understood some of the ex-GAMA workers would be present. However again, I had no interaction with Mick Wallace while in attendance.

There was no relationship between me or the Socialist Party and Mick Wallace before or after his employment of some ex-GAMA workers.

Mick Wallace’s comments on the Marian Finucane show regarding me are part of ongoing attempts to portray him as a victim, to diminish the seriousness of his tax evasion and to avoid responsibility for his actions.

They may also be a response to our strong criticism of him for becoming involved in the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes, a taxation justice campaign which could only be damaged by being associated with a high profile individual with serious tax evasion issues. Whatever the reason they have no credibility.