One million still to pay household charge ahead of tonight's deadline
ALMOST one million people have yet to pay the €100 household charge as tonight's deadline looms.
As of last night, just 613,893 of roughly 1.6 million eligible households had paid the tax -- and Environment Minister Phil Hogan is facing the reality of the vast majority of people ignoring his pleas to fork out by this evening.
He needs a massive, last-minute push to get everyone paid up, or even to get towards a respectable figure of 75pc payment. It stood at just over 38pc last night.
Despite this, the Government has insisted it will not extend the deadline, meaning anyone who does not pay by tonight could face fines and court sanctions.
However, those paying by post will avoid fines if they have already sent their €100 -- even if it is not processed by tonight.
Local authorities will open today to allow people to make last-minute payments, and homeowners have been asked to contact their own councils to get details of opening hours.
There was a surge of another 73,000 households paying yesterday, but this was down on the previous day's increase, when more than 100,000 paid up.
All cabinet and junior ministers, except European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, who rents a property, last night confirmed they had paid the tax.
But the ongoing controversy over the charge is causing frustration in Government.
On a visit to Kerry yesterday, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton threw her eyes to heaven when asked how she thought those who didn't pay should be dealt with after today's deadline.
Swiftly avoiding that question, she said in the future she hoped how to pay and register would be explained better to people.
"What I want to see developed are easy-pay options, particularly for pensioners, and I would also like to see organisations like An Post being used, and more help desks in the individual councils," she said.
Ms Burton said she was particularly conscious of pensioners -- she was about to take a bus trip with a group of them to Castleisland -- and conceded that the registration process posed difficulties for a lot of people.
"It hasn't just been paying the fee, people also have had to register and give information, including their PPSI number, and not everybody knows that off the top of their heads," she said.
Mr Hogan last night praised the people who had paid so far, "despite the tough time Irish people have had in the last few years".
"They understand the importance of compliance with the law of the land and, by paying the household charge, they have made their contribution to the continuation of essential services at the local level," the Carlow-Kilkenny TD said.
"Nobody wants the imposition of new taxes or charges and I would have preferred not to have had to introduce this charge.
"However, the principle of the household charge is very important. We are one of the last countries in Europe not to pay for essential local services through a locally based tax."