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LEINSTER LEADER EDITORIAL 1 APRIL 1916

NAAS, SATURDAY,  APRIL 1, 1916.

AGITATION AGAINST OVER-TAXATION

The agitation against the further taxation of Ireland inaugurated at the great meeting held in the Dublin Mansion House, on Friday 25th last, has gradually assumed such large proportions that for the past couple of weeks it has been occupying a large share of time and attention at meetings of our public representative boards. The grievance giving rise to the agitation is admitted on all hands, but the latter, which in reality is but a continuation of the reiterated protests against the further exploitation of this country in the interests of imperial finance, presents some aspects which demand particular notice just now. Twenty years ago the forerunner of the present agitation resulted in the formation of a Commission to inquire into the Financial Relations existing between England and Ireland. The members of that Commission were nominated by the Government and according to their findings, Ireland was then over-taxed at the rate of two and three quarter millions pounds annually, and that this financial robbery as it was then termed by the Irish Parliamentary Party was going on for over ninety years or nearly since the time that the Irish was amalgamated with the Imperial Exchequer. From 1815, when this systematic plunder, coupled with the retrograde and demoralising influences exercised by Castle Government, brought about a disastrous famine, the country has sustained by starvation and emigration an actual loss of four millions of people. These facts were incontrovertible, and yet, instead of relief taxation has gone on increasing year by year. Protests there were, but they were unorganised and therefore ineffective while the state of Irish politics precluded to a large extent a lead being given to make a strong national protest. The hesitation to embarrass the Government then is in fact one of the reasons actuating the Irish Party today in refusing countenance to the present agitation and which has now impelled Mr. John Redmond to deprecate it and warn the country against the consequences. The hesitation to embarrass an already very much embarrassed Government responsible for the carrying on of a great war is a matter of tactical expediency, which may, or may not, commend itself to the wisdom of political leaders as being opportune for successfully pressing for the removal of a national grievance of much gravity. As to the other reason put forward by Mr. Redmond for disapproving of the present agitation, namely, that it originated in a quarter hostile to the Irish Parliamentary Party and its policy, this we venture to regard as a purely secondary party consideration which affects neither the existence of the grievance nor the desirability of its removal. The broad fact remains that the country, even prior to the war, had been overtaxed to the extent of nearly three millions annually; that this, instead of decreasing has been gradually increasing and that since the war broke out nearly seven millions has been added to the over-taxation of the country. These facts were grasped by the public and it mattered not to it for the moment who originated a national protest against any further increase in taxation, it commanded support on the merits of the justice of its demands. Taxation is a difficult problem in domestic legislation even in peace times, and the raising of revenue with equity and without unduly discriminating unfairly or unjustly against particular individual or collective interests, often in turn taxes the ingenuity of the Chancellor. But in the imposition of unfair taxation by one country on another the gravity of the consequences which may follow cannot be exaggerated. The history of the world and its wars proves this and we have only to point to the well-known case of the American War of Independence which had its origin in attempted over-taxation and which ultimately lost the colonies to the Mother Country but led to the birth of the Great Republic of the West. As to the immediate effects of over-taxation and its consequences, the methods employed for fleecing this country have been described as morally and politically the worst for a free country and the most easily employed for the oppression of an enslaved country. Nine-tenths of it is paid in indirect taxation and is levied off the breakfast and dinner tables of the people who pay toll to the British Government for every morsel they consume. The general effects are observed in death of employment, absence of encouragement for industrial or other enterprises, emigration, and all the well-known economic ills which manifest themselves in a poor country such as ours. It has been stated that the country has a precedent for acting without the advice or authority of the Irish Party, and in forcing the latter by the aid of public opinion into a resistance of the ruinous taxation proposed some time ago in the Budget brought in by Mr. Lloyd George, but the circumstances are entirely different. The agitation then was against an attack on a particular and vital Irish industry unfairly discriminated against, whereas in the present instance the agitation is directed against further general taxation, and, which also differs from former agitations of the kind, inasmuch as while it aims at protecting the country from fresh imposts, former efforts claimed not alone a remission of the admitted over-taxation, but also a restitution of portion of the millions of money already extorted to be employed towards developing the resources of the country and the revival of those industries which had been taxed out of existence. Now these are circumstances which are all well recognised in this country and by its representatives in Parliament: yet, the further fact must be faced that the Irish Party would be false to the trust reposed in them by the British Government had they lent official countenance to the agitation for resistance against the further taxation of this country for war purposes. Not alone this, but the representative public boards of the country would be acting illogically if they declined to follow the lead given by Mr. Redmond in this matter. It must not be forgotten that the Irish Party, through Mr. Redmond, has declared that this war is also Ireland’s war, and have followed up that declaration by a campaign for recruiting Irish regiments for service in the British army. This policy has been formally supported and approved by representative public bodies of this country, mainly manned by the farming interest. They have also formed Recruiting Committees and called on other classes who had already given more than their quota to join the colours. If, therefore, they honestly believed this war to be Ireland’s also, and in the prosecution of which Irish blood should be poured out why strike against the cost in mere money? If war must be made, its advocates must make up their minds to the cost and war cannot be had without bloodshed, money, and suffering and sacrifices of all kinds. It will be seen, therefore, that the position of the men who yesterday were calling for recruits and passing resolutions in support of Mr. Redmond, and who now demand that the war tax should be resisted is a very illogical one, and no doubt Mr. Redmond’s letter, published in the metropolitan press, will have a corrective effect on those who have allowed their enthusiasm for the war and its conclusion in victory for the Allies to be stayed for the moment by the prospect of the heavy taxation which it involves.

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