Politics

Verona Murphy sucking diesel in blistering attack on Taoiseach


With a war raging in Europe, prices rising across the board and food shortages a possibility, it may be time to institute a Dig for Victory campaign.

Independent TD Verona Murphy is all for it.

“This is time for extraordinary measures. It’s time you listened,” the Wexford deputy told Micheál Martin. “It’s time to be brave and grow a pear, Taoiseach.”

When she suggested to the head of government that he might consider cultivating his own fruit and veg to help the war effort, he didn’t take it kindly. And the Ceann Comhairle didn’t look too impressed either. Seán Ó Fearghaíl winced and recoiled like he had just bitten into crab apple.

Perhaps they misunderstood what Verona was saying and thought she was telling the Taoiseach to “grow a pair”, thus playing the man and not the ball. Or is that the other way around?

Make no mistake but Verona, former head honcho of the Irish haulage industry, was sucking diesel in the Dáil on Wednesday.

Given her past incarnation as boss of the Irish Road Haulage Association, there isn’t much she doesn’t know about the price of fuel. And we note from our Nealon’s Guide to the 33rd Dáil that she is also a trained “electrologist” so must be pretty well up on energy matters too.

The word describes a hair removal specialist, in which case Verona is eminently qualified. Her blistering attack on the Taoiseach would have singed the pinfeathers off a turkey.

Excise duty

The Government’s attempt to bring down soaring fuel prices by cutting excise duty was the major issue of the day so it was no surprise when the Regional Group sent Deputy Murphy in to bat at Leaders’ Questions.

She didn’t hold back. Her opening question on “the composition of a litre of fuel” was a complete head wrecker, not least because Verona kept referring to some poor woman called Nora who appears to be a walking tax magnet.

“The diesel pump price that I’ve been given this morning is €1.89.00 . . . The Government tax take is 96.58 cent: that’s 50.86 per cent. Taxes applied include excise duty, carbon tax and Nora. Now the actual pump price today for petrol is €1.92.02 . . . And all Government duties include excise duty, carbon tax and Nora and the actual price per litre without VAT at 55.23 per cent, Ceann Comhairle, is €1.06.53. So VAT is actually applied to the above taxes at 23 per cent,” she bewilderingly began.

“Isn’t that right, Taoiseach?”

Eh. . .

She lost us at this point because in our head, Groucho Marx was rapid-firing a monologue on Taxing the Tax on Tax, Tax

Then more figures about VAT and base prices and taxes and poor Nora, God help her.

“And the reductions that you are reporting today are not reductions at all, are they, Taoiseach?”

Eh. . .

So Verona turned her attention to the Ceann Comhairle because, clearly, there was no point in her wasting any more of her valuable time on Micheál.

“It’s the equivalent of the tax on tax because, Ceann Comhairle, the tax that’s on the tax on a litre of petrol is actually 20 cent. That’s the tax that’s on the excise. That’s the 20 cent reduction we’re supposed to be getting. And the tax on the litre of diesel, the tax on the tax, is 18 cent, so the Taoiseach actually has 3 cent to play around with but he’s trying to tell the people of Ireland that he is doing them a favour.”

To be honest, she lost us at this point because in our head, Groucho Marx was rapid-firing a monologue on Taxing the Tax on Tax, Tax.

The Taoiseach doing people a favour? “I just cannot believe it, Ceann Comhairle.” At least Dick Turpin wore a mask when he robbed the people, “to be fair” to him. But Micheál just sits there “barefaced” and says what he says.

Interesting, though. The Government slaps a tax on something then taxes the tax. “Adding VAT to excise duty, VAT on carbon tax and VAT on Nora at a rate of 23 per cent on petrol and diesel,” she marvelled.

Time to be honest with the people, thundered Verona.

The official Dáil record has spared the blushes of historians who may be reading this in time to come

Yes, but who the heck is Nora, or Nora Levy to give her full name, a capital woman by all accounts? Apparently she’s high maintenance and pure mad for the activities. You might know her better as the National Oil Reserves Agency.

The Department of the Environment says: “NORA levy is an existing levy and is collected at a rate of 2 cent per litre, on most oil products placed on the market. It is used to fund the activities of NORA, primarily in the maintenance of the State’s strategic oil reserves.”

Glad to clear that up.

Financial supports

The Taoiseach pointed out the Government has spent €800 million on extra financial supports in the past month alone and money to fund public services such as health, education and social protection has to be gathered from somewhere.

They had gone as far as they could in cutting the excise duty without breaching European Union law, while removing all of the duties was not a runner. That cut no ice with Verona. They could stop taxing the tax for a start.

“It simply can’t be done” repeated Micheál, speaking in a general sense as he never actually addressed her taxing question.

“If you had brains. . . [you’d be dangerous]” she sarcastically drawled.

“Okay, we’re not all as intelligent as you, clearly,” he snapped back.

“True.”

Not removing the tax and VAT “will drive inflation through the roof and drive the country head-on into a deep, dark recession that will make the 1980s look like a holiday” predicted the spitting mad Murphy, loudly berating Micheál as the Ceann Comhairle told her in vain that her time was up.

“This is time for extraordinary measures. It’s time you listened . . . It’s time to be brave and grow a pair, Taoiseach.”

The official Dáil record has spared the blushes of historians who may be reading this in time to come and changed the “grow a pair” challenge to “grow up”, which in a way, is the same thing. Bless.

“I think you need to understand that there is a war on here,” the Taoiseach reminded Verona.

We could all see that, particularly when he reiterated his belief that the way forward is through energy efficiency and “doubling down on renewables”.

The Healy-Raes and Mattie McGrath, huddled together for warmth in their little cubby hole on the edge of the chamber, had a collective seizure.

“Carbon tax! Carbon tax!” spat Michael as his incandescent brother Danny (publican, farmer and bus operator whose plant-hire business posted pretax profits of €743,244 for 2020) shook his fist in the air.

The Ceann Comhairle sighed heavily, memories of a lovely morning mingling in the members’ restaurant with representatives of the diplomatic corps (including the Ukraine ambassador) at a successful fundraiser for the Red Cross organised by Senator Sharon Keogan, fading fast.

Could everyone just behave? “The public who are looking in at this charade are not impressed,” he cried.

“With the Government” snorted an unrepentant MHR.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl tried again.

“Please,” he pleaded. “Don’t make a show of us.”




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