Last week the Fair Rates Campaign held a meeting
in a church in University Avenue.
Because I had been invited to discuss the issue
on Talkback, I was able to tell the public that
MLAs and our present MP Alaistar McDonnell would
I provided a small PA system and Anne Monaghan
chaired the meeting, as she had been asked to
chair the first meeting 13 days before.
Now, I hold no brief for property speculators
or landlords or indeed millionaires. We have plenty
of them in South Belfast. Indeed, we have plenty
of them in West Belfast as well, if truth be known.
My grudge was simple. I am asset rich and cash
poor. I bought my house at a time when it was
just about affordable for me. I left a much larger
house in Coolnasilla because I was fed up chasing
death-riders and hoods. I was the one who decided.
My wife had urged me to move for many years and
I had refused.
That is the background, plus the fact that I told
the South Belfast News that I wasn't paying
triple my rates next April. The response from
ordinary people was terrific. As usual, it didn't
come from the rich or comfortable, but from people
who had pensioners or bereaved people living next
We listened to Alaistar McDonnell kick off. He
thought he was talking to a P2 class.
Alex Maskey came next, unprepared and not at all
sure of what to say. He was hooked, unfairly I
thought, by Anne Monaghan.
Next Stelford of the DUP. Not bad, but again nothing
Esmond Birnie, a decent chap, and Sir Reg Empey
were mercifully brief, with again little to say.
Now came Mr McCartney, QC. He and I would have
plenty of idealogical differences, and I would
have thought, little in common.
He tore them to pieces. All this bunch had actually
voted this in, the exception being Seamus Close
of Alliance who had as his assistant an economics
graduate from America called Alan Leonard.
The MP's, Sammy Wilson, Gregory Campbell, Alaistar
McDonnell, and Lady Sylvia Hermon had sat for
over 2 years previously in Westminster in the
Northern Ireland committee and said sweet FA.
It gets even better. All of them would welcome
PFIthat's where you get someone to build
a hospital/school or whatever, then pay the maintenance
and upkeep plus original costs, let this run for
40 or 50 years or until it falls down, and then
give it back to the original builder.
We have already an example here with Balmoral
High School. Have a look at that sometime.
All the parties here are responsible for this,
excepting the Alliance.
Now we have Peter Hain telling us, along with
Hanson (Dear Tone's PPS for 4 yearsthe wages
of sin is the appointment as a minister in the
NIO) that we WILL do it.
It gets better.
You will now pay partly for the running of the
RUC/PSNI (take your pick).
Who got us into this mess?
dear elected DUP, Sinn Fein (by the way, no rates
on a second home in the Southnot that I
begrudge it, you understand), UUP and the dear
The final insult came last Friday, when the SDLP
had themselves photographed coming out of Stormont
Castle complete with placards decrying the inequity
of all this. Chief among them was Sean Ferran,
who, more than most, was responsible for this.
They have no shame or sense of it.
Then neither have any of the rest, so they are
in good company.