Sunday, October 19, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere. And All of it is being Taxed.

Then there was the time I took a trip to Killarney. Somehow or other I ended up with  a group of American tourists all intent on enjoying a day's outing. The only problem? It was lashing rain. As we took refuge in a local cafe, the voice of an annoyed woman from New Jersey took aim at our poor tour guide who was intent on keeping everyone happy.

Her: "It's raining. Again."
Tour Guide: "It does that in Ireland."
Her: "But it's like a hurricane outside."
Tour Guide: "It does that in Ireland too."
Her: "But we'll get wet!"
Tour Guide (now more than a little exasperated): "Do ya see the green of the fields? Do ya like it that way? Well God does too and that's why it's gonna keep raining."

It rains in Ireland. A lot. It drizzles, pelts, and lashes. It's so ubiquitous, this liquid wonder that pours onto the country, that most of us take it for granted. The Irish may be short of many things, but water? We've that in spades. And for years and years we got it for free - sort of. Turn on the tap and out the water poured and no one thought anything of it.

Until recently. This past month, thousands and thousands of households throughout the country received a wee letter in the post making it official: we'll all be paying for water from now on. Come next January, we'll all get a bill in the mail for the amount of water we use.

But the Irish aren't taking this lightly. Thousands of 'em are protesting in the streets leveling accusing fingers at our politicians.

But what's the big deal? The citizens of many other countries pay for water. Why should the Irish be any different? Someone has to pay for it, don't they?

To understand Ireland's attitude to water charges, you have to realize that most people here have just about had it with so-called Austerity measures. Prior to the Great Recession of 2008, Irish citizens had already been taxed to death. But new taxes on income, property, and consumer goods  have come close to pushing many households over the financial edge.  Many are having trouble paying for simple things: like heat in the winter. And petrol for cars. And school uniforms for children. Most are already saving for the new property tax which they will be forced to pay after Christmas. And now the government wants all of us to pay again. In January of course. Right after Christmas. When everyone is broke.

The Irish are usually an uncomplaining lot. In fact, that aspect of their character can often drive me crazy. But this time, for many, paying water charges isn't a matter of inconvenience. Rather, it's a choice: do they put bread on the table or pay the new water bill?

If you're visiting Ireland over the next few years and see entire populations make their way toward the local town water pump, bucket in hand, you'll know that they've opted to eat.

The new tax on water is simply a tax too far and one that many simply cannot afford.

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1 comment:

  1. Shocking really, when you think about it. Most Irish can just put out a rain barrel and never use municipal water again. Why don't you all just sign your paychecks over to the government? Seems you are on trend to do just that. Would save on paperwork anyway.