Fine Gael council hopefuls refuse to campaign on local property tax cut pledge
There has been a backlash in grassroots Fine Gael against Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's local election manifesto promise that the party's councillors will seek to reduce property tax.
A series of Fine Gael candidates said they were not making the pledge at the doors.
Party headquarters has been accused of "interfering" with councillors' powers - and candidates have said they would not make a commitment they may not be able to deliver on.
Currently, each council has the option of increasing or reducing the local property tax (LPT) by a maximum of 15pc.
Reductions occurred in just four of the country's 31 local authorities for 2019 - the councils in Dublin.
Some 22 more decided not to change from the standard rate, and five others have higher rates.
The LPT level in Wexford is 10pc above the standard rate.
Fine Gael councillor Paddy Kavanagh said the extra income was ring-fenced to help fund enterprise initiatives. He was critical of the pledge in the manifesto, saying he would not be promising to reduce LPT as "you can't generalise from county to county".
He also accused Fine Gael headquarters of "interfering" in the powers of councillors.
Waterford City and County Council has maintained an LPT that is 2.5pc higher than the standard level.
Cllr Damien Geoghegan said: "I'm not going to go knocking on doors promising people something I may not be able to deliver on."
He said Waterford kept its LPT increase to an "absolute minimum", but said the funds were needed to provide "essential services".
He added: "We're not a cash-rich local authority, unlike the larger ones in Dublin."
Longford Fine Gael candidate Cllr Colm Murray said a 15pc LPT increase there is being used to support applications to regeneration funds. He said the hike amounts to less than €10 a year for most households in the county, given property values there.
Mr Murray said he was not promising voters that the LPT would be reduced.
The LPT rate in Limerick City and County Council is 7.5pc above the standard level.
Cllr John Sheahan said he did not think Fine Gael candidates should promise to cut the LPT "because we may not be able to deliver it and we may or may not be in control of the councils to do that".
His party colleague on the council Liam Galvin said the LPT had not been coming up on the doorsteps, but he had "absolutely not" been promising to reduce it either.
The LPT rate in Laois is 10pc above the standard level. Cllr Mary Sweeney said it was being used for road upgrades.
She said she was not going to promise voters the LPT would be cut, because the decision would ultimately come after debate in the council.
The Fine Gael manifesto promises its councillors "will work to ensure that, where possible, the LPT rate levied by the council is reduced".
It says upward adjustments will only be approved by its councillors to deliver new specific and additional services.