Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the vast majority of Irish people are able to pay the property tax because they can afford up to €1,000 a year for premium television packages such as 'Sky Sports'.
Mr Noonan was speaking in the Seanad last Thursday afternoon as part of the debate on the property tax, where he dismissed opposition claims that a majority of people won't have an ability to pay the new tax, which will be on average €316 per house.
The minister was responding to Fianna Fail senator Darragh O'Brien who was requesting he add more exemptions to the tax, which will come into effect from July 1.
However, Mr Noonan rejected these claims saying the vast majority of people in Ireland are "paying their way", and the property tax will be significantly less than what they pay for in subscription television services.
"Some people in this country are very badly off, and some families are very badly off. However, a lot of people have an ability to pay and we should not take the hard case as the typical case," he said.
"The senator will recall a few weeks ago there was a change in the television signal and a good deal of data came across my desk when that was being done. Does he know that 82 per cent of households in Ireland have pay television packages? Most of them do not have the basic package, they also have sport and film channels, in many instances up to €1,000."
In response to concerns from opposition senators about this statement Mr Noonan added: "The point I am making is that a very strong case can be made about how badly off the country is but that is not true. There are people who are very badly off and there are more people badly off now than ever before but there is a whole generality of people who are paying their way. I am only using what people pay for a television product in their homes as an example and this measure is an awful lot less.
"Many people will pay less in property tax than they will pay for a television licence. The charges are quite modest and they will be spread across 1.9 million household units and that allows us to keep the rates down.
"There are real issues but we should not exaggerate the position by speaking in generalities."
During a more light hearted exchange as part of the debate, in responding to comments from Senator David Norris, Mr Noonan joked: "The senator should pay for Sky Arts, it has two great channels."
In response, Mr Norris said: "I would not touch anything tainted by the ghastly claws of Rupert Murdoch."