Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

15 October 1998 Edition

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Robbin' hoods

By Sean Marlow

Nottingham's Robin Hood made his name robbing the rich to give to the poor. Here in Ireland our biggest robbers swindle the poor to give to the rich - themselves.

For years republicans and socialists have been claiming that the financial sector has been fleecing the taxpayer and should be taken under state control but our views were dismissed as paranoia. In fact we underestimated the level of fraud and tax evasion, which has been shown to be truly amazing: beef barons ripping off customers and taxpayers alike; NIB diddling customer accounts; Ansbacher Bank hiding hot money in the Cayman Islands and now AIB allegedly withholding over £80 million in DIRT from bogus ``foreign'' accounts. And that's only the tip of a very large iceberg - an amazing £17 billion is now reported to be held in such ``non-resident'' accounts, so evading tax. At least Dick Turpin wore a mask.

Only this week, a young female drug addict from Ballymun was given a six year sentence for snatching a handbag. But not a single director or senior manager has been jailed, fined or even prosecuted for any of these multi-million pound thefts.

Not only has this shower of bankers got off scott-free but they have been richly rewarded. Millions of pounds (of taxpayers' money of course) have been given to them for legal costs in subsequent tribunals; tax-payers have to pay the £70 million EU fine for fraudulent practices by beef barons; AIB's subsidiary ICI was bailed out (by guess who?) to the tune of £800 million, then the levy imposed on the banks to get it back was lifted. And, to cap it all, in the last budget Corporation Tax was reduced and Capital Gains Tax was slashed from 40% to 20%. Is it any wonder that AIB stands to make a profit of £1000,000,000 this year?

Since Magill revealed the latest AIB scam, politicians of all shades from the PDs to DL have been falling over themselves to pretend that they have no responsibility for the ongoing rip-off of the ordinary taxpayer. But FF, FG, Labour, DL and the PDs have all been in government while all this fraud was going on. Most hypocritical of all have been Labour and DL who pledged to establish a State Bank in their Programme for Government with FG - then broke their promise as soon as their arses hit the back seat of the black Mercs. Also, it was revealed this week that a provision allowing the Revenue Commissioners to order documents from the banks was taken out of legislation by politicians so that financial institutions police themselves - and we know from the RUC what self-policing means.

This is an area where Sinn Fein can set itself apart from the cosy cartel of parties which have ruled in the south over the past decade. We need a strong state/community banking system (possibly combining An Post, ACC, ICC, TSB and the Credit Unions) and very strict state control of all financial institutions, not only to prevent scams and provide real competition, but also to ensure that the huge amounts of capital sloshing around is directed into productive, job-creating investment, rather than into property speculation which has seen the cost of homes escalate out of the reach of ordinary people.

With the 26 County budget coming up, SF should be seen to speak out loudly and clearly for PAYE workers and the unemployed who have been ripped off for far too long in the so-called ``interests of the economy''. Magaret Thatcher once said that there was no longer any such thing as society and many politicians and economic experts here went along with her views and destructive policies. As a result, while our economy is supposed to be booming, hospital waiting lists are increasing, nurses are being refused a long-awaited and deserved pay rise, teachers are having to take strike action to get adequate resources for schools and local authorities are being starved of funds. Sinn Fein needs to make it clear that the economy should be the servant of society.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1