Sympathy for the smuggler

Nov 29th, 2010 | By | Category: Ireland

The television news report said that smuggling was not a ‘Robin Hood’ activity, but was something that deprived the government of taxes for essential services.  Since yesterday’s signing of Irish sovereignty over to the agents of the IMF and ECB, the claim that essential services are a priority for the government is patently untrue.  The Government has found tens of billions to protect the rich and powerful, in defiance of the free market principles of capitalism that those who expect the benefits of investing in an enterprise must also accept the risks of that investment.  Working people have now to bear the burden of the disastrous losses of businesses of which they knew little and benefited less.

Expressing concern at millions being lost in excise duties while handing billions, amounts thousands of times more, to international financiers is unlikely to find much sympathy amongst those buying contraband cigarettes at car boot sales and from under pub bars. In a country where tax avoidance for the rich was facilitated by Government-created loopholes, there seems more than a little hypocrisy in condemning ordinary people who attempt their own tax avoidance.

Contraband activities have a long tradition in Ireland – particularly the distilling of poitin – and tax evasion was  once perceived as a patriotic duty; in times when the Government is perceived as having acted in a way that is less than patriotic, its complaint about the loss of duties is likely to fall on unlistening ears.

Whatever its protestations about protecting people’s health, excise duties on cigarettes and alcohol are a soft option revenue earner for the Government and have been resented for centuries.  Dislike of the revenue men and sympathy for the smuggler was inculcated from primary school days, even at a small primary school in the rural West of England we were taught Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Smuggler’s Song’

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street.
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark —
Brandy for the Parson,
‘Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ’em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again — and they’ll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining’s wet and warm — don’t you ask no more!

If you meet King George’s men, dressed in blue and red,
You be carefull what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you “pretty maid,” and chuck you ‘neath the chin,
Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house — whistles after dark —
You’ve no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty’s here, and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb they lie —
They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

If you do as you’ve been told, ‘likely there’s a chance,
You’ll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood —
A present from the Gentlemen, along o’ being good!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark —
Brandy for the Parson,
‘Baccy for the Clerk;
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie —
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

‘Brandy for the Parson’?  Unlikely these days.

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  1. I caught that show as well. Even though I don’t live in Ireland, I’d have to agree with you. It is all about the revenue. The politicians, worldwide, couldn’t give two pence about how bad the illegal ciggies might be. We have a right of passage here as well that goes back to our Irish, Scottish, and English roots. We are taught how to distill poitin, moonshine. It is illegal to grow cotton here unless you have a special licence which leads back to the monetary revenue going into very deep pockets. People grew cotton here 200 years before it was ever illegal. 🙂

  2. You’re right. It’s a sideshow that distracts attention from the real issues.

  3. In the words of the great tax resister Henry David Thoreau:

    “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison…the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the state, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error…”

    Bleeding the stste of revenue is a patriotic duty at this stage.

  4. Wasnt Matthew the tax collector in the bible very much despised as well until of course he became a Saint – cant see any of our politicians/tax collectors being canonised !!!!!

  5. All in this together – as if. From Fintan O’Toole in today’s Irish Times
    “As the think tank Tasc has pointed out, someone on €300,000 a year will pay an extra €1,860 in income tax. A person on €40,000 will pay exactly the same: €1,860. In percentage terms, someone on €36,400 will lose more than twice as much of their income as someone on €100,000. ”

    Cherish all the children of the nation equally?

  6. The philosophy of the PDs lives on – flat rate charges allowing those who have raked in millions to pay no more than OAPs!

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