If French think life is hard, let them try liv­ing here!

Leo’s lot should learn from Yellow Jacket ri­ots

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - JOE DUFFY WRITE TO JOE AT: The Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day, Em­bassy House, Balls­bridge, Dublin 4

WHILE we were all mes­merised by the tele­vis­ing of the rev­o­lu­tion in France – with its vivid im­ages of yellow-jack­eted pro­test­ers, orange flames and blue-clad, body-ar­moured gen­darmes – prices were rock­et­ing, again, in Ire­land.

The only peo­ple who seemed to no­tice – and care – about the fact that gas and elec­tric­ity prices have risen twice in the last 12 months, up in total by 20%, were the So­ci­ety of St. Vin­cent de Paul who work at the coal­face.

Did any­one no­tice that most bus, rail and Luas fares jumped last week, hid­den by the ‘three card trick’ that some fares had gone down?

French movies may be slow, lan­guid, el­e­gant and bor­ing, but their protests are like Hol­ly­wood block­busters. They even dig deep in nam­ing their protest movements – ‘Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Jack­ets), an­other dar­ing move!

Imag­ine pro­test­ers, who nor­mally want to re­main anony­mous, don­ning high-viz jack­ets so the po­lice can eas­ily iden­tify them?

BUT then again France is a bizarre coun­try. Until re­cently, cig­a­rettes were man­u­fac­tured by the state – and the in­creas­ing price of cigs was one of the many com­plaints raised by the ‘Gilets Jaunes’. But, os­ten­si­bly, the main griev­ance of the French pro­test­ers was the pro­posed fuel in­creases – but they have been promptly aban­doned by a scared gov­ern­ment.

French petrol and diesel prices are lower than in Ire­land: the French don’t pay car tax, it’s in­cor­po­rated into their fuel prices.

But, then, most things are more ex­pen­sive in Ire­land. We pay the sec­ond high­est price in the EU for our gas, while our elec­tric­ity bills are the fourth high­est out of 27 coun­tries.

If you are strug­gling with gas and elec­tric­ity bills – ac­cord­ing to the St Vin­cent de Paul 28% of Ir­ish fam­i­lies are in that cat­e­gory – you can opt for a ‘pay as you go’ me­ter.

But this will add up to €274 to your an­nual bill. The SVP spends €4mil­lion ev­ery year help­ing needy fam­i­lies with these bills.

And the elec­tric­ity sup­pli­ers don’t make it easy for pay-asyou-go house­holds. When you top up you need to key a 20-digit code into the me­ter. And ev­ery time the prices go up, twice this year, you have to key in a 60 digit code!

On the same day that France erupted last week­end, a mas­sive, good-na­tured peace­ful protest weaved its way through Dublin city cen­tre, as a coali­tion of over 50 groups high­lighted the hous­ing and home­less cri­sis.

The French protests turned sav­agely vi­o­lent. Four peo­ple are dead, hun­dreds in­jured and the tax­payer will have to pay out count­less mil­lions in com­pen­sa­tion to prop­erty own­ers.

One de­scrip­tion of the French upris­ing that did hit home is that the pro­test­ers, in ob­ject­ing to in­creased car­bon taxes to beat cli­mate change, were choos­ing be­tween the end of the world and the end of the month – and they went for the lat­ter.

This month sees the miserly in­come tax changes an­nounced in the Oc­to­ber Bud­get ap­pear in pay pack­ets – but they are so small that few will no­tice.

Can we blame hard-pressed work­ers for be­ing more in­ter­ested in their pay at the end of the month?

I don’t think so, but it is a les­son our Gov­ern­ment should heed more.

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