Bitter resentment is the over-riding feeling of the majority of people who have felt compelled to pay the property tax. Successive polls have shown mass opposition to this home tax. Unfortunately, people clearly lacked confidence about refusing to pay as their form of protest.
Once the power of deductions was introduced by government in draconian legislation and when no alternative fightback was forthcoming from the trade union leaders, a resignation developed among people that “they’ll get it from us anyway.”
There was also the widespread belief that huge penalties could be imposed on those who boycotted. Of course, this was aided by a propaganda blitz in the media promoting the tax and drowning out opposition voices.
The tactic of boycott was necessary and fully correct to call for, however. Some parties and individual politicians (e.g. Sinn Fein) refused to call for a boycott and argue now it was inevitable it would not work. It was not inevitable. Had leadership been given and a powerful campaign built which chimed with a more confident mood among working class people, the outcome might well have been different.
With about 90% registration, it is unlikely that the forcible deduction of the tax from wages and welfare, due in July, will be the significant pressure point it could have been had the boycott levels been higher. The campaign should highlight and protest at the disgraceful spectre of Labour dipping into the pockets of workers, unemployed and pensioners to forcibly take this unjust tax while the country is a tax haven for corporate giants and billionaires.
The extent of this evasion by the likes of Apple and Google was exposed a week before the deadline for property tax payment. Oxfam also identified an estimated €707 billion they believe is stashed in Irish accounts by the world’s wealthy.
Although the property tax has been imposed, it will remain a major political issue. It will cause thousands of families severe hardship when full payment falls due next year. Those coerced into paying bitterly resent having to do so and they oppose austerity.
While the registration figures are a blow, people are looking for ways to strike back. That is why a political initiative is vital for all anti home tax campaigns. The standing of a slate of anti property tax / anti austerity candidates was put to many public meetings during the campaign and enthusiastically endorsed. It makes sense that those who fought and protested the tax should now challenge the political parties to abolish it.
There is a real yearning to see an alternative to the austerity politicians. The Campaign Against Home & Water Taxes (CAHWT) has been the most active anti austerity campaign in Ireland and drew in new activists. What are these new activists to do now? Of course, opportunities should be taken for protest against TDs, Ministers and councillors. So too should the water tax be fought whenever it comes on the agenda.
But those local campaigns which have endorsed the standing of candidates have been best able to maintain the new activists by providing a campaign focus and way forward.
There is a historic opportunity for an anti-austerity slate to be assembled for the local elections next May, which could develop into something very politically significant.