Tuesday, February 25, 2003
By Carl O’Brien, Political Correspondent
LABOUR leader Pat Rabbitte said yesterday he wanted to introduce a new wealth tax to fund vital areas such as health and transport services.
He said that instead of increasing income taxes, a tax could be used in areas where massive wealth is generated, such as land speculation and the bloodstock industry.
Mr Rabbitte pointed out that a group of speculators charged Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council €116m for rezoned land, yet were later able to drop their claim to €47m. "All of these areas have to be looked at, rather than the facile PD-inspired assumption that it's all about personal taxes on income," he told RTÉ's News At One. He also confirmed he was considering establishing an alliance with Fine Gael ahead of the next general election, but that his immediate priority was to build up the Labour Party. "As for what strategy I might bring to a conference, that is probably four years down the road. It would make good sense to make contact with the other parties in the coalition," he said. "We've had single-party governments and multi-party governments. I haven't really thought beyond the rubric of Fine Gael and my views on that will be kept to myself until closer to the day," he said.
Mr Rabbitte said he was spending a considerable amount of time building up the party organisation and wanted people to have a chance to vote for a Labour Party candidate in every constituency. He claimed there was a massive amount of anger among the general public over the way the Government fought the last election and Labour would be tapping into this.
"The Government conned the people in the last election and consequently, imposed a range of stealth taxes, new charges and new levies. The average household will lose approximately €1,500 per annum from its average income as a result," he said. In a meeting with his own party members, Mr Rabbitte accused Fianna Fáil of embarking on a new strategy of holding themselves out as being in opposition to Government measures that are unpopular with the electorate, but then voting for them in the Dáil. "This new strategy, apart from being an insult to the electorate, is designed to support the Fianna Fáil hegemony over Irish politics and was born, when a couple of years ago, the Fianna Fáil propaganda unit contrived to round up 13 backbenchers to go onto RTÉ to oppose Mr McCreevy's Budget provisions on individualisation.
"FF was again with the people whichever side you happened to be on. We have now discovered that the propaganda unit in question costs the taxpayer rather a lot of money."