The lot of right-wing populism in Ireland is primarily focused on the changing social fabric of the nation. As the government repeatedly and consistently alienates voters with its high tax, high migration, high rent society, political traffic will drift towards the other side of the fence. But largely when discussing this political dynamic is the economic dimension.
Formulating both an economic programme while in government that is electorally popular is a necessity for any would-be Rightist political party, however we find this significant component of formulating a Right-wing populist alternative absent from political discourse on the Irish Right.
Between the rising cost of energy, among other general living expenses such as food and rent, the average Irish person has growing financial pressures. The current national debt stands at €240 billion, a figure which hangs over the government like a millstone, or it would do so for any normal government with normal priorities for state management.
While the government is spending billions on Roderic O’Gorman’s preferred LGBT issue of the week, Irish families are feeling an ever heavier financial crunch. The Irish government today spends €5.5 billion on funding the state’s progressive NGO sector. Coincidentally, it is estimated that the government generates €5 billion a year from the Universal Social Charge.
A simple investigation into government spending reveals just how much money could be returned to the Irish taxpayer during a time of economic unrest, as the situation of theinability for establishment parties to pivot from their exploitative economic policies appears ripe for right-wing political gain.
The USC has been universally hated since its introduction, and when citizens read of their government spending billions of euro on social activism while they are struggling to pay rent, find schools for their children, or pay their bills, it fosters a wish for change that right-wing populists in Ireland have so far ignored.
Abolition of the Universal Social Charge
Introduced by Brian Lenihan in 2010 to recover the government’s lost tax revenue at the height of the recession, the USC was from the outset a predatory ploy to reach into the purses of Irish people during a time of financial difficulty.
In its most recent Red C/Business Post poll, the newspaper revealed the extent of public outcry against the Universal Social Charge tax. With a reported 69% of voters seeking the abolition of the tax, it is clear that Irish voters are unified in their desire for tax reduction schemes, especially so during a cost of living crisis.
Voter’s demands that the government scrap the USC in October’s budget is highly likely to be ignored, as People Before Profit are the only party supporting the abolition of the tax.
The Business Post, generally a high quality newspaper for those with an interest in Irish politics and economics, is also unfortunately prone to a particularly ignorant liberal bias.
And unfortunately, rather than expressing sympathy with the financial plight of ordinary Irish people, or advocating for the reformation of the Irish tax system, Business Post political analyst and UCD associate professor Aidan Regan said much the opposite, labelling the electorate’s economic interests as an “extremely stupid” financial decision.
This “extremely stupid” policy was previously one of Fine Gael’s major promises in the 2016 general election, which it won, in part, under the auspices of its intent to abolish the USC. But just like every other Fine Gael policy, the party changed its mind shortly after being elected.
This liberal-technocratic impulse in Irish politicos to justify support for the most controversial of policies has perpetually estranged Irish elites from the interests of ordinary people. If one actually took the time to move beyond preconceived notions of their intellectual capacity to form policies better than the needs of the average person weigh up, they would find that the USC should indeed be abolished, and the Irish tax system reformed.
Concluding his article in the Business Post, Regan goes as far as to claim: “If the electorate wants more and better public services (i.e. more public sector employment), then we need to widen and extend the tax base. This not only means making the political case for keeping the USC, but introducing a range of new revenue-raising measures, as outlined by the government’s own independent Commission on Tax and Welfare report.”
The assertion that if Irish people want better or more public services that they must pay more is as insulting to the average worker as it is ridiculous. A paltry understanding of the state of Ireland’s government services show that Irish people are not paying for functioning services, and that should the government, or wanna-be journalist policy-makers wish to examine government services, they must keep in mind that the taxation rates must be commensurate with the value of state services.
The abolition of the USC would remove €5 billion in tax revenue from the state, but given that the government spends €5.5 billion a year on NGO funding, a promising prospective right-wing populist economic policy would be the defunding of the NGO sector as a prerequisite to allow the state to balance its financial books, and abolish the hated Universal Social Charge. Supposedly introduced to help the country during the recession, the USC is treated as “pocket money” for the government to spend on whichever LGBT-minority issue is popular on social media that week, and would surely appeal to public interest.
There are hundreds of places where unnecessary government funding can be cut and the proceeds returned to the taxpayer or invested in developing a sustainable economic industry that does not rely on unreliable multinational companies.
Poor Government Services
The assertion that the Irish taxpayers must pay more for better public services presumes that Irish public services are functional and sustainable in their current state. This is quite the opposite, and it will soon be shown that Irish taxpayers are really being fleeced by a government which is especially prone to financial squandering.
The state has neglected investment in public infrastructure, despite receiving substantial wealth in foreign investment and from corporations based in Ireland. Instead of investing in better public transport, health care, or other projects to improve the quality of life of Irish people, the government has spent over a decade in quagmire of its own making – the housing crisis, and one which has only gotten worse as the government refuses to close Irish borders to bogus asylum seekers seeking to take advantage of Ireland’s welfare system.
Should Irish taxpayers really be paying the government more in taxes as 1.1 million people are known to be in line for some kind of health care? The fact that the HSE is a dysfunctional, overcrowded and understaffed institution is absent in the minds of Ireland’s political classes.
Climate Hysteria – Agriculture and Energy
The agricultural sector is an important industry for the Irish domestic and export markets, but the government’s desire to meet international climate targets sees an ever further encroachment towards a mass-culling of the Irish cattle herd. Irish politics is at present a facsimile of the harshest political satire, destroying integral economic industries, while the Prime Minister’s husband embarrasses the entire nation making inappropriate comments at the coronation of a neighbouring Kingdom.
Ireland’s energy policy too must come under fire as the detrimental nature of green policies is shown in a time of energy price-gouging. The Climate Agenda and its consequences have set back Irish energy autonomy by decades, as the Green Party and its colleagues seek to further limit the capacity for the state to function on native energy resources, whether it be gas fields or peat.
Ireland’s political classes shamelessly lead their nation down the garden path, as their beloved “international community” laughs at their insanity. The international audience, including the likes of Elon Musk, look at Ireland with genuine shock-horror at the behaviour of our government, while foreign nationals find solace in the fact that no matter how poorly their country is handling the issues of the day, at least they are nowhere near as bad as the Irish government.
NGO-mania and Mass Migration
Anathema to the liberal humanitarian zeitgeist of the 21st century, is the idea that mass migration is a significant factor in the current maladies facing European countries. Quick to dismiss the economic consequences of migration on the housing crisis, or the Irish taxpayer, liberal politicos find themselves in a pit of ignorance so deep they actually cannot fathom why a small rural community would oppose a shantytown of 500 undocumented male asylum seekers in their area.
Regan’s Business Post article in defence of the USC voices an awareness that Ireland’s population is increasing and justifies his proposal to expand government tax revenue on this basis. But looking at where this population growth is from, namely bogus asylum seekers, the article lacks a much needed value judgement: should the government be accepting these people into the country to begin with?
In another poll, the Business Post revealed that 75% of Irish people believe we have taken in too many refugees. Mass migration has come to prominence in Ireland as a political issue, and must be dealt with in an electorally viable manner. Framing Irish right-wing populism from an economic view-point easily articulated to the general public would generate much needed publicity and political foot-traffic to a movement lacking mainstream appeal.
The government’s excessive NGO spending aside, it is also notable that Irish Aid spend approximately €867.5 million a year on international aid programmes. These programmes, though, are not pursued in such a way that they foster economic ties between Ireland and developing nations, but instead are a financial sink for the state.
A right-wing government, should it come to power in Ireland, would do well to undertake a serious audit of government expenditures over the last 30 years to calculate just how much money the Irish government has thrown away through NGOs, corruption, and poor spending.
The mentality of countries in Africa, too, is sceptical of Western philanthropy and civilisational virtue signalling. It is better to have transactional relationships with these countries to help them develop rather than throwing money into an endless monsoon of financial, military, and political conflict spanning an entire continent of poverty.
Articulating a political alternative for Ireland also requires an economic programme. Not just one that aims to develop state industries and bring the country wealth, but perhaps most importantly, one which can win elections by the favour of an increasingly beleaguered population.
Abolishing the USC, and reforming the Irish tax system, policies which no mainstream political party in Dáil Éireann holds, are simple victories for prospective right-wing electoral rhetoric. Taking issue with climate nonsense, migration, and the NGO sector, too, can be done successfully if it is framed in such a manner that hits at the economic failures of these policies first, and constructs a political justification that is supplementary, or explanatory, for the sake of persuading the average Irish voter, who cares far more about abolishing the USC than they do ideological issues.