A NORTH Kerry woman who was forced to give up the 'luxury' or her TV and internet to help reduce her outgoings after being made redundant says she is disgusted at the government's proposals to introduce a public service broadcasting charge to every household in the country.
Jessica Hilliard from Causeway says that government plans to charge a flat fee of €160 - regardless of whether they have a television, computer or any other device that can pick up public information - is ludicrous and proves how out of touch our public representatives are with the people they represent..
Ms Hilliard, a qualified school teacher and cultural heritage graduate, had worked in a factory in Tralee for several years but began to struggle with her mortgage and bills after being made redundant three years ago. Still unemployed, Ms Hilliard says she sought financial advice when she fell behind on her mortgage repayments and was advised to get rid of any 'luxuries' she could do without.
"I was told that the TV ad internet had to go, because they were considered luxuries. I even had to sell my car and replace it with an old one for a few hundred pounds because I couldn't afford the repayments on that either," she told The Kerryman. "As it is, I'm trying to survive on €188 per week, I can't make my mortgage payments every month, and now they're going to charge me for a TV and internet I don't event have. What a joke."
Ms Hilliard, who spends a lot of her time at the library researching family trees and geneology, says that those behind the proposals are totally out of touch with the real financial difficulty so may people are faced with.
"I don't think they're in touch with the people and they need to get back to grass root," she said. "We're taking cuts left, right and centre but they're not living in our shoes. The shoes of the regular people who cannot afford any more taxes. I know other people in the exact same position as me, who simply cannot afford to pay for TV or internet, yet the government thinks we should all be charged the same. It's not fair."
Ms Hilliard admits that the financial pressure she faces has led to a deterioration in her health and says the stress she sometimes feels can be overwhelming. She said the government isn't doing enough to help people who are in serious debt, adding that another tax could send some people over the edge.
Instead of a blanket charge for all households, Ms Hilliard suggests the government should consider a pre-payment system, whereby TV and internet access will only be available to those who pay.
"I don't see why it can't be like digital TV or the internet or online shopping. If you don't pay for the service you don't get it, " she said.
"That way, those who want it will pay, and those like me will be exempt. It seems pretty simple to me. It's not that we don't want to pay, we simply can't, and that's the difference."