Sunday Tribune recently published a supplement
on the 100 richest people in Ireland, North and South.
This publication was very interesting, because it
gave a good insight into the Irish capitalist class.
The supplement estimated that about 50 000 people
in Ireland could be considered very rich. This includes
doctors, dentists, accountants, top civil servants.
In 2002, the Revenue Commissioners revealed that under
10 000 tax payers reported an income over 150 000
Euro, with another 12 600 people in the 100 000 to
150 000 Euro income bracket. Things are more complicated,
as thanks to the help of their accountants and tax
advisers, many rich are able to hide their real income
from the tax authorities. To quantify the decisive
core of the native Irish capitalist class, with the
bar set at an annual income of at least 150 000 Euro
plus liquid assets of a minimum of one million Euro,
the number of people drop to no more than 5000 or
6000. Of the top 100 richest people in Ireland, 27
come from the construction and property sectors, 12
from distribution, 8 from hotel and pubs, 7 from the
food industry, and 6 from sport and entertainment.
Only 11 come from a manufacturing background, 5 technology
and 5 from finance. Those people, through their economic
power have more influence in this country than ordinary
people. We are told that we live in a democracy,
that the people decide how the country
is run. The citizens have an equal say, everybody
can vote. So Sean in Ballymun or Mary in Tallaght
have as much weight in running the affairs of this
country than Tony O Reilly, Michael O Leary or Margaret
Heffernan. But in practice, these people have far
more influence than the ordinary citizens of this
take a recent example. Fianna Fail is a populist party,
claiming to represent the interests of the ordinary
man and woman. As everybody knows, there is a housing
crisis in the South, and the majority of the citizens
want decent and affordable housing. Early in April,
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Irish Management Institute
conference in Killarney: I believe it is time
that (property) development enriched the many and
not the few, and
promised he was going to solve the problem of affordable
housing. However, behind this pious rhetoric is the
fact that Fianna Fail ultimately represents the interests
of the business people, construction and property
owners. One just has to glance through the official
publication celebrating the 75th anniversary of the
party (Republican Days: 75 Years of Fianna Fail) to
see more than 30 of the countrys leading property
firms advertising in
it. Building firms finance many TDs, be they Fianna
Fail or Fine Gael.
to the Sunday Tribune (20 April 2003),
in 2001 Fianna Fail received donations from
Treasury Holdings (21 432 Euro),
Ballymore Properties (10 767 Euro),
Cosgrave Developments (6 349 Euro),
Durkan Homes (9 829 Euro),
Maplewood Homes (3 911 Euro),
PJ Hegarty (5 587 Euro).
the paper concludes and that kind of money is
nothing compared to the total sums thrown like confetti
at individual politicians. The Construction
Industry Federation as a pressure group has an immense
influence on shaping Fianna Fails policies,
far more than ordinary constituents have. In March
2001, the Irish government abolished the anti-speculative
tax it had introduced nine months earlier under pressure.
Then in December 2001, Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy
introduced attractive tax breaks for property investors.
More recently, in December 2002, Minister for the
Environment Martin Cullen diluted proposals contained
in the Planning and Development Act which would have
forced builders to allocate 20 percent of new private
housing estates for social or affordable housing.
Ahern and Fianna Fail, contrary to what they state,
will never be able to solve the problem of affordable
housing or enable property development to enrich the
many because they are tied in with and dependant on
property interests and are therefore incapable of
pursuing a policy of confrontation with the builders,
landlords and property owners.
at the end of the day the rich are always going to
have their say, no wonder many people dont bother
participating in elections. Citizens are formally
equal but practically unequal. If democracy is to
be meaningful this question has to be addressed. Various
shades of Republicans are faced with this question:
if serious about democracy, what are you prepared
to do to remedy this inequality of power and wealth?
How can you cherish the children of the nation
equally when 5000 to 6000 people, because of
their money have more influence than 500 000 or 600
000? There is/was much talk about the Unionist
Veto, but Republicans have been silent too long
about the Capitalist Veto.
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