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Hogan struggling with €100 charge -- Rabbitte

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan is struggling with the challenge of bringing in the controversial €100 household charge -- but will succeed, cabinet colleague Pat Rabbitte said yesterday.

Backing what he described as the "gradual" charge, the Energy Minister said most people accepted the need to broaden the tax base to include property.

"Phil Hogan is struggling with the challenge of bringing in a new utility," Mr Rabbitte said.

But when asked about opposition to the measure, he said he believed the €160m due to be raised would in fact be collected as most people realised that such a charge was necessary.

The intention was also to replace the current temporary flat charge of €100 per household with a gradual tax relative to the size of the property, he added.

Local authorities are depending on the revenue from the household charge to fund vital services in 2012.

Asked by the Irish Independent if he expected that the resistance to the charge by some Dail deputies would extend to the public, Mr Rabbitte said: "The decision taken stands."

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has promised a nationwide boycott campaign against the household charge.

But speaking at the announcement of 91 new jobs at Bord na Mona, in Newbridge, Co Kildare, the minister said that people like Joe Higgins had been championing a tax on property "since the French Revolution".

Mr Rabbitte said the household charge, which has been initially set at a temporary flat rate, would evolve into a situation where "people who can pay the most will pay the most".

"There are a lot of rich pickings for people who wish to protest. But I don't think the household charge is the one I'd pick first."

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, who accompanied Mr Rabbitte to the announcement, said he was sure the charge would raise €160m next year, and that broadening the tax base to include property was needed to create employment.

Other countries also had property taxes of some sort, he added.


Mr Bruton rejected suggestions that there were tensions between the government partners over the six-figure salary awarded to his special adviser.

This follows reports that the Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin fought for several months not to pay former Fine Gael press officer Ciaran Conlon a salary of €127,000.

Mr Conlon was eventually awarded the salary in breach of the Government's pay cap, following an intervention by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Bruton insisted yesterday that it was "always envisaged that the guidelines could be breached" where a person with great ability holding a higher salary was being selected.

When asked about the controversy, Mr Rabbitte said it appeared that the media were more concerned about counting the number of advisers whose salaries were breaking the pay guidelines than counting the challenges facing the country.

The 91 new Bord na Mona jobs are in the area of research and development, supported by €6m from Enterprise Ireland.

Irish Independent