Sinn Fein election pledges deserve to be treated with great suspicion
Asking around about the election I detect a whiff of cynicism about politicians. "Oh here they come again with their promises!" Being sceptical, with a degree of justifiable bitterness, is quite reasonable.
All too often, what's said on the campaign trail stays on the campaign trail. But I don't wholly blame politicians. Politicians might lie to the people, but the people are pretty good at lying to themselves.
Exhibit A: Sinn Fein. First: They say they'll abolish water rates. So do the AAA/People Before Profit. They have great freedom to promise this because there's only a tiny chance they'll actually be in government. The joys of opposition!
But even if they did get in and get rid of the hated tax, here's what would happen. The introduction of water rates was mandated by a European law in the Water Framework Directive in which it was agreed that the "polluter pays".
That means whoever is using the water (you) must pay for it in a manner that incentivises using less - the more you use, the more you pay. So go ahead and get rid of the direct tax. Then the EU will most likely fine us for being in breach of the directive.
Meanwhile, the cost of providing water will still have to be paid from income tax. Result: increased taxes.
Second: Property tax. Sure! Get rid of this. I'd be delighted. But county councils still have to get money, so the Department of the Environment will have to pay them directly. We'll pay more income tax to pay for that.
Third: Crime. The gangland assassinations are out of control and how easy it is to blame the Government. Sinn Fein's solution is to abolish the Special Criminal Court, the non-jury courts where dangerous criminals have to be tried on the evidence of garda statements because juries and witnesses have been intimidated by criminals in the past.
It was in this court that Gerry Adams' friend Thomas 'Slab' Murphy was recently convicted for tax evasion.
The last time Murphy was in court, he sued the Sunday Times for libel when they accused him of being in the IRA. Murphy lost.
Why don't you ask the next Sinn Fein canvasser why an ex-IRA godfather and tax evader is a "good republican"?
I understand that water rates are a red line for many people sick of paying for everything, while the bankers and top civil servants who ruined the country get away with their generous pensions. It's hard to take.
But calling ex-IRA godfathers who are tax evaders "good republicans"? That's my red line.
Abolishing the courts reserved for the most dangerous criminals to help Sinn Fein's friends from the old days, who now pass their time in ordinary criminal activities like diesel laundering and tax evasion?
Promising to abolish water rates, and break European law? They're great promises. A lot of people seem to believe them. But if you do, who's fooling whom? The politician or the voter?