VB day, Victory over the Border Day, has been a long time coming. The war began many years ago when a smart lad from somewhere down or up near the border, depending on how you look at these things, discovered that running a drop of red diesel through a variety of substances could remove the red dye and restore the product to its original colour.
The fact that this little scam deprived her Majesty’s Customs and Excise of much needed money was neither here nor there; the long tradition of Irishmen defrauding the British in any way possible had to be continued.
There is a certain breed of Irishman who considers it his national duty to take as much off the British exchequer as he can, whether by fair means or foul. The problem for the rest of us is that we don’t see any harm in what he is doing. In fact, secretly most of us admire him for his ingenuity and cunning. There appears to be a blind spot in us when it comes to paying taxes; taxes are for the British, not the Irish.
Now the British think that they have come up with a dye which is un-removable. They are so sure of themselves that they have even made a press relief about it.
“A new measure to combat fuel laundering should result in the illegal trade being "virtually eliminated" in the UK, according to HM Revenue and Customs.
Fuel launderers evade taxes by removing dye from red diesel, which is cheaper than regular diesel and is intended only for off-road agricultural use. It is prevalent in Northern Ireland, costing £80m a year in lost taxes.”
Just think about it, £80 million could pay the policing for two Twaddell Avenue protest camps.
“However, a new dye is set to be introduced next year, which HMRC said will be almost impossible to remove.
It means that motorists who use discounted red diesel for non-agricultural use should be easily detected during roadside checks.
Pat Curtis, a senior officer from HMRC's specialist investigations unit, told the Press Association: ‘The whole idea of this marker is to virtually eliminate laundering.’” (BBC News)
Notice how the HMRC man gave himself a way out: ‘HMRC said will be almost impossible to remove.’ You have to hedge your bets.
Over the next couple of weeks men in green boiler suits and even greener wellingtons shall be carrying out all sorts of experiments and I would bet any money that within 48 hours of the new diesel appearing, a novel method of turning the “Red into Clear,” to paraphrase the Good Book, shall be found.
In September 2012 a group of HMRC men and women from Belfast went over the Westminster to appear before one of those House of Commons Committees. Some of the exchanges were farcical. After a long series of questions about a new dye which was to be used, here is a discussion between Ian Paisley Junior and the men from the revenue:
“Mike Norgrove (HMRC): No, we are going to pilot, as soon as possible, a new marker if one is required by then.
Ian Paisley (Jr): But in October this year you are just putting more dye in. Is that right?
Sarah Harlen(HMRC): It is that, essentially.
Ian Paisley: Thank you.
Sarah Harlen: But essentially what the new dye will do is to double the effectiveness of the existing marker.
Ian Paisley: I will just say that the sales of cat litter and bleach will increase, because they will just move it; they will just remove it.
Sarah Harlen: Yes, I understand that, but effectively what it does is make it more expensive for the launderers. It makes it twice as difficult and twice as expensive. We are not suggesting for a moment that this is the perfect solution, but it is a step forward.” (Parliament.uk website. Fuel laundering and smuggling in Northern Ireland: Oral and Written evidence, Sept 5th 2012.)
No wonder most of us have an ambivalent attitude towards diesel launderers. Maybe it’s the fact that we resent paying so much for fuel or the fact that we know that taxes are made to make the rich richer and the poor poorer that we no longer connect with the morality of the political classes.
One day during the week I heard a woman on the radio news in the Free State. It was a couple of days after the Joan Burton incident in the car in Jobstown. Here is a piece of the Irish Independent report:
“Ms Burton was trapped in her car for two-and-a-half hours by protesters in Jobstown during the angry protest, and she said she has been suffering from a stiff neck since Saturday.
“I got a bad bang on the back of my neck. It’s a bit like people who play sport, it’s a bit stiff but it’s OK.”
“My personal adviser has worked with me now for four years. She was with me in the car as well. She never experienced anything like it. They gave her a very rough time as well and she was obviously quite upset,” Ms Burton added.”
Couple of points:
1. Jobstown is the most misnamed town in Ireland. It is known for massive unemployment.
2. According to a 2004 census, this area had the highest crime activity in Ireland that year. It was also in a 2004 top-ten list of overall crime rates in towns throughout Europe. Jobstown is generally viewed as an area with high crime rates and drug problems.
Now compare the lifestyle of Ms Burton and her adviser to that of the poor Joe in Jobstown who has probably never had a job and is now expected to pay for water in the wettest country in the world.
What is it about politicians that they can see nothing of the disconnect between what they think is reasonable and what the poor of the land see as criminal extortion?
Anyway, back to the woman that I heard on the radio news from the Free State. She was a member of Fine Gael and bitterly bemoaning the behaviour of these people with a sinister agenda in places such as Jobstown.
Grow up Mrs Nice Middle Class person from Fine Gael. The people bemoaning and protesting about water charges are doing so because they have nothing left to give. It is the same with the red diesel.
The people who go on about bad boys taking the red out of red diesel have probably never had a day’s unemployment in their lives and paying for diesel is never a problem to them.
On top of this, the Labour Party, which Ms Burton leads, is supposed to be for the poorer classes, not driving them further into poverty.
The disconnect between those who have and those who haven’t in Ireland and Britain is becoming wider and we are neither doing anything about it nor do we appreciate how quickly it is coming.
“The rising cost of private rents will push future generations into poverty and add billions to the housing benefit bill, according to social policy charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The charity's report says that by 2040, people who rent will be more than twice as likely to be living in poverty as homeowners.
The Joseph Rowntree Trust expects rental costs to rise 90%, twice as fast as income.” (Guardian)
It turns out that we are not, nor have we been, building nearly enough council houses. And whether we like it or not, with the new focus on money and greed that we have encouraged in our society we are behaving in a way that shows we do not care.
Who can blame these people for not connecting with the morals of the nice middle classes? The Joseph Rowntree report estimates that we will have six million people living in extreme poverty by 2040.
So what—that is the natural reaction of most of us. Let’s face it; we don’t care.
When people can’t afford legal diesel they shall remove the red and a market is created by excessive taxes being placed on the items in the first place.
When people who live in rain soaked houses are being charged for water, what do you expect them to do? Swim in it!
Society is becoming more unequal and we don’t care. Everyone is looking after themselves and their wee corner. It is natural and we all do it.
Well, maybe some people care.
‘Since being established in 2011, The Detail has helped to position investigative journalism at the core of the news industry in Northern Ireland.
Our not-for-profit news and analysis website is run by Belfast-based independent TV and online production company Below the Radar, which also owns international feature documentary company Fine Point Films,’ says the notice on the website of a group called The Detail.
They recently did a study into the prescribing of prescription drugs in Northern Ireland. Guess what, we are among the highest users in the world.
“Northern Ireland has one of the world’s highest prescription rates for antidepressant medicines according to new research, but fresh questions have emerged over what may be driving the trend,” says the report.
One interesting finding of the study was this:
“In the six month period examined, from April 2013 to September 2013, GPs here prescribed enough antidepressants to give every man, woman, and child a 27-day supply at the Defined Daily Dosage limits. In England GPs prescribed enough for 10 daily doses per patient. The figure in Wales was 19.”
Another, which does not meet with accepted thinking, was:
“Doctors interviewed for The Script Report pointed to a rising problem among age groups that are too young to have directly experienced the Troubles.”
I’m not a doctor. Nor do I suffer depression. But I think we have a problem underlying our society and it is one of those problems that it is not politically correct to even address.
Over these past few years we have developed this sense that everyone should be happy all the time, no one should have a day when they are not just at themselves and everyone has to be feeling good all the time.
There is a tendency and a growth towards the idea that a person should never be allowed to suffer or feel pain, either emotional or physical. But surely suffering pain is part of life, a part of the growing process and a part of what forces us to ask ourselves what is going on in my life?
This idea, which is so current in many people, of running for a pill at the slightest sign of discomfort, is something that has become widespread. And overworked doctors are being encouraged to take the easy way out, give the people a pill.
I used to have a great old friend from Cookstown. When you ask him how he was feeling he would sometimes say, “I’m a bit aff.”
What is wrong with being a bit aff?
For me the problem is that we are rearing a whole generation whose first response to any sign of pain is to get a pill.
The result of this is that we are keeping so many people in an infantile state and not allowing them to grow through their pain.
Accepting pain, dealing with the hardships of life and learning from our experiences, is what turns adolescents into adults. The problem is, we have too many people around today who want to remain adolescents.
But at least we have real morality in our leaders, or do we?
Last Thursday in some part of England that I neither know nor care about, Mark Reckless won a by election for the UKIP, the United Kingdom Idiosyncratic Party, was being interviewed on the BBC evening news. It was about 6.15pm on Friday evening and the interviewer asked Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, who he would deal with if there is a hung parliament after the next election.
“I would do a deal with the devil if it got me what I wanted,” came Farage’s instant reply. When I looked it up again on the net it appears that Farage had previously said this in an interview with the New Statesman magazine on November 14th.
What amazed me is that neither the reporter nor anyone else has raised an eyebrow to his statement. Is making deals with the devil now part of everyday politics? Do we realize what this means … maybe we think it is a joke but does the devil?
He hasn’t gone away you now. Well, if Britain votes him in we can’t say we weren’t warned.
Then Uncle Peter lost his temper on the radio as he was asked about the behaviour of Gregory Campbell.
“Mark Carruthers asked Peter about Gregory’s behaviour at the DUP conference and his previous remarks about the Irish language.
However, Peter Robinson told Mark Carruthers on the BBC's Sunday Politics that people had over-reacted to Mr Campbell's remarks.
"This is getting tedious," Mr Robinson said.
"If all that you have out of the whole of the party conference is to question me about that, then there are better things I could be doing with my time.
"Lighten up will you? It's a party conference and it was a bit of comedy in the middle of it, let's get on with some real business."”
This is the business, Peter. This is the same old Unionist belief that all things Irish and Catholic can be insulted at will and the Catholics have to take it.
But Catholics should not react and fall into the old Unionist trap. Unionism is based on hatred of all things Irish and Catholic, they need us to react.
Our reaction should be to press on with education, equality and building peace.
Sure in a few years, Peter wouldn’t recognise the place.
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