FINE Gael candidate Helen McEntee has admitted that the unpopular property tax is a dominant issue in the Meath East by-election campaign.
Many householders in the constituency paid huge stamp duty on their properties during the boom and are now in negative equity.
Ms McEntee defended the Government's decision to introduce the property tax, saying it was a condition of the bailout programme and the troika was not "budging on it".
"It's not a popular decision and anybody who has been going door-to-door over the last couple of days is well aware of how people are feeling about it," she said.
She and Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne are seen as the leading contenders out of the 11 candidates in the race.
The by-election is being held following the suicide of Ms McEntee's father, former junior minister Shane McEntee, last December.
Fine Gael is hoping that its strong support base in the constituency – where it won two out of three seats in the last general election and the sympathy factor for Ms McEntee – will help it to overcome the backlash against the property tax.
During a live debate on the LMFM station, Mr Byrne said he had always been opposed to the property tax, even when his party had included it in the bailout deal.
"People can't afford this tax. They are telling us at the door they have nothing left," he said.
But Labour's candidate, Councillor Eoin Holmes, said the property tax was being introduced because of the "broken economy" inherited from the previous Fianna Fail government.
Sinn Fein's candidate, Darren O'Rourke, criticised the property tax as unfair because it did not take account of people's ability to pay.
It came as the Revenue confirmed that there had been almost 2,000 calls to its property tax helpline and more than 600,000 hits on its property tax valuation guidance website.