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Charge protest turns ugly as FG delegate, 70, struck

A noisy and colourful protest march against the household levy in Dublin turned ugly when a 70-year-old delegate to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis was kicked in the legs and punched in the ribs.

Thousands of protesters voiced their anger at the €100 charge and austerity measures yesterday by marching through central Dublin to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in the capital's Convention Centre.

By 8pm yesterday evening only 776,153 out of an estimated 1.6 million households had paid the property tax -- with officials expecting more to cough up next week when penalties start applying.

As yesterday's march approached the Convention Centre, 70-year-old Fine Gael councillor Billy Ireland -- from Environment Minister Phil Hogan's Carlow-Kilkenny heartland -- was trying to get into the Ard Fheis when he was surrounded by protesters and attacked at the barriers.

A number of older delegates who were unaware of the timing of the protests got caught up in the melee as they tried to get past the garda cordon thrown up around the National Convention Centre.

Mr Ireland expressed anger at the incident but said no lasting damage had been done. "I was kicked in the back of the legs and got a few digs in the ribs. That's out of order," he said.

Another older female delegate, who declined to be named, was also hurt and said she would have been dragged to the ground but for a number of gardai who moved in to protect her.

A near riot broke out when a tall Fine Gael delegate, with more than a passing resemblance to Mr Hogan, was surrounded by protesters carrying Eirigi placards.

The man was jostled and engulfed by angry men and women shouting "Shame on you, Hogan" before gardai came to his rescue and drove him away in a squad car.

Around 5,000 people joined the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes national protest at Parnell Square yesterday.

Banners at the protest included 'Austerity Stops Here', 'Don't Pay for Septic Banks', and one with a picture of Mr Hogan with a Hitler-like moustache reading 'Heil Hogan'.

One peaceful protester Shay Purdey, from Airfield, Dublin, with a banner reading 'Pog mo Hogan', said the household tax was not going to stop at €100.

"We need to nip it in the bud before it gets to €1,000 or more," he said.

Peaceful protester Willie O'Brien from Glanmore, Co Cork, said that in the 1930s politicians had taken wage cuts of 50pc but their present-day equivalents had not taken enough cuts to their wages, pensions and expenses.

Led by a banner reading 'More then one million strong -- mass boycott makes threats unworkable', the protest outside the National Convention Centre had many speakers attacking Mr Hogan.

Particular spleen was reserved, however, for Justice Minister Alan Shatter who earlier told protesters to "get a life".

Represented at the march were left-wing and republican groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, Republican Sinn Fein, Eirigi as well as single-issue groups such as Shell to Sea and Occupy Dame Street.

Socialist MEP Joe Higgins told the noisy protest that what was speaking the loudest was that two-thirds of people had boycotted the tax.

Socialist Party councillor Ruth Coppinger spoke to the crowd, saying the march and campaign were not just about the €100 charge but were also about austerity measures.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett criticised the Government's action on the promissory note, saying it was an accountant's trick which would cost €90m in interest this year alone.

Attacking the "savage austerity" measures, he said the Government was "planning worse, a second bailout".

"This State was founded by a revolution of the people. We need a new 21st-Century revolution," he said.

Sunday Independent