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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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Opinion: I've just signed up to Irish Water. I don't think that makes me a traitor.

Reluctantly and unhappily, I’ve decided I can no more pick the taxes I pay than the laws I obey.

Donal O'Keeffe

I’VE JUST SIGNED up with Irish Water. I don’t think that makes me a traitor and I’m pretty sure that the President of Ireland isn’t a traitor, either.

I didn’t especially want to sign up for another tax and I’ve spent months humming and hawing as to what I would do. I’m not opposed to paying for potable water on principle – yes, water is indeed a fundamental human right, but so too is food and best of luck explaining to the nice security guard in Tesco why you won’t pay for your groceries.

The argument that we already pay for water has never really moved me, either. We pay taxes and from those taxes, yes, water is paid for but in truth we haven’t actually paid for water in a long time.

The problem with Ireland’s taxation system is that no matter what name we put on individual charges, they all go into the one big pot and all expenditure comes back out of that same pot, too. At this point I’m sure my car actually pays more taxes than I do and yet most of the roads we travel on are still akin to the boreens in the windier stretches of Kandahar Province. That’s because all those disparate car taxes are going into the big pot and you’ll be very lucky if you see so much as a shovel of tarmac coming back out.

I was going to hold out. I really was.

Irish Water is Ireland’s usual problem, summed up in the punchline of the old Kerryman joke: “If I was going there, I wouldn’t start from here.” Here we are, under the thumb of the Troika to introduce water charges and, if you really should never waste a good crisis, what does this Government do? Does it create a progressive tax which encourages water conservation? Nope. It gives us a brand new quango, bloated, inefficient, bonused and bulldozed through with a level of arrogance, stupidity and incompetence it took the last shower at least two terms to attain.

I was going to hold out. I really was. I resent that I’m down over a hundred a week since austerity kicked in (and I wasn’t well-off before). I resent that those at the bottom are consistently squeezed and those who drove our country off the cliff have yet to see a poor day. I resent that this Government is about to leave us all poorer yet again and there’ll be damn-all to show for it when Irish Water’s bonuses are paid.

I really was going to hold out.

Then Jobstown happened. Paul Murphy has a megaphone that he takes everywhere in the boot of his car. I have a pair of wellingtons in the boot of mine. I guess we both plan ahead. “Poor Joan Burton, trapped in her big car with wifi, boo-hoo”, was the reaction from the more tediously right-on corners of Twitter, but I kept thinking about Councillor Rebecca Moynihan’s tweet “my female friend was kicked in the back, pelted with eggs, missiles thrown at her head.”

I kept thinking about the homophobic and misogynistic abuse bellowed at Burton and those around her. The spitting. The roaring “PEACEFUL PROTEST” in the face of Gardai (who must surely be the most patient cops on the planet). The violence and the naked aggression of Jobstown rattled me.

Last week’s attack on President Higgins decided me.

Venom spat at the President

I should declare an interest. I voted for President Higgins. I was one of the million-plus who gave Michael D the largest mandate in the history of the State.

According to the venom spat at the President last weekend, he is, variously, a midget, a parasite, a sell-out, a f**king scumbag and – of course – a TRAITOR. These many failings on the part of our First Citizen are presumably because he did not refer to the Supreme Court the Water Services Bill to test its constitutionality.

This President has been in politics for as long as I have been alive and I think it’s a safe bet he knows an unconstitutional bill when he sees one. He also knows – as his politically-illiterate and perpetually-enraged critics clearly don’t – that referring a bill to the Supreme Court is, like all swords, double-edged. If the Supreme Court adjudges a bill constitutional then it’s set in stone and can never again be challenged.

In my more cynical moments, I wonder at the anger of those roaring TRAITOR. Why, it’s almost as if they never bothered to vote before 2011 – if they even did then – and are now aghast that, to quote The Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band, “No Matter Who You Vote For, The Government Always Gets In”. They would do well to learn Churchill’s dictum that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried”.

Yeah, it was that word that made me phone Irish Water today. If that makes me a “TRAITOR”, then I’m proud to stand beside my President.

Three days from Irish Water’s deadline, I realised, reluctantly and unhappily, that as an Irish citizen I can no more pick and choose the taxes I pay than the laws I obey. But that’s OK. I’ll get my revenge in the polling booth.

Donal O’Keeffe is a writer, artist and columnist for TheJournal.ie. He tweets as @Donal_OKeeffe.

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