Thursday 29 September 2016

Water protester pays out €136k in tax settlement

Published 17/03/2016 | 02:30

Damien O’Neill. Photo: Collins Courts
Damien O’Neill. Photo: Collins Courts

A General Election candidate who spent time in jail for trying to prevent the installation of water meters has made a €136,000 settlement with the Revenue Commissioners.

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Damien O'Neill, who got 1,446 votes in Dublin Bay North, had to pay interest and penalties for under-declaring of capital gains tax and income tax.

The anti-water charges campaigner is listed on the Revenue list of tax defaulters as a company director.

Records show that Mr O'Neill, from Greenwood Park, Blunden Drive, Dublin 13, has been involved in a number of companies in areas such as cleaning, security and wholesale. He ran as an independent candidate in the election, citing over 30 years as a community activist as his big selling point.

"I continue to stand with the people in their fight against austerity, and I am committed to giving something back to the community," his election website said.

He stood as part of the Right2Change platform and finished 16th out of 20 in the so-called 'group of death' constituency of Dublin Bay North.

Contacted yesterday about the Revenue settlement, Mr O'Neill said he had no comment to make on it.

Figures released by the Commissioners show that he owed a tax bill of €84,739 but as part of the settlement he also agreed to pay €25,849 in interest and another €25,849 in penalties. The total debt came to €136,010.

Mr O'Neill previously came to public attention when he was imprisoned for contempt of court orders that restrained interference with water meter installers.

He had been sentenced to 56 days in jail in February of last year but was released after less than a month on a technicality.

The President of the High Court said he was obliged to free Mr O'Neill and three other protesters but was "most unhappy at the idea of a procedural technicality trumping substantive justice".

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said he had no discretion but to release him early due to errors in the committal warrant grounding his detention.

A previous court hearing was told that lawyers for GMC Sierra, the company with the contract to install water meters around the country, had secured injunctions preventing a number of individuals from assaulting, intimidating or interfering with workers installing the meters.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said the protests linked to Mr O'Neill were being carefully organised and carried out by persons "whom I have found to have been in contempt" and were "designed to provoke civil disobedience".

He distinguished their actions from the "many people in the country" who have carried out peaceful protests to the imposition of water charges.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page after the election, Mr O'Neill said that he had been overwhelmed and humbled by the support he received.

"In the last 18 months, standing with the community against austerity in all its guises, I have met the most amazing people and formed lifelong friendships," he said.

"Now the election is over, the issues we face in our communities still remain. The fight goes on."

Irish Independent

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