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Sinn Fein to lobby for household charge repayment

SINN Fein is to lobby for cross-party support to have the household charge reimbursed.

With a 72 hour deadline to pay the €100 charge, the party's environment spokesman Brian Stanley unveiled plans for proposed legislation to reverse the levy and pay it back.

"It's clear that the household charge has been a farce, it's clear it's not working," said Mr Stanley.

Sinn Fein will table the Bill during private members' time in June, but in the meantime has pledged to rally as many TDs as possible to support it when it comes to a vote.

"We're calling on members of the Dail and the Seanad to back our Bill and are hoping that members of the opposition and Labour Party will back it," Mr Stanley said.

Success is some way off however.

Sinn Fein TDs make up 14 of the 166 currently sitting in the Dail.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition has 111 seats, meaning that even if Sinn Fein rallied support from every single TD in opposition, it would still have to gain support from a significant number on Government benches.

The deadline for householders to register for the charge is Saturday.

But figures from close of business yesterday in the Department of the Environment showed that only 395,232 of the 1.6 million homes eligible have done so.

The Government hopes to raise €160m from the levy, but has so far taken in only €39.5m.

Money raised will go towards public services, including public footpaths, parks and public libraries.

Mr Stanley said if the household charge were reversed, the Government could shore up the funds it needs by introducing a 1pc wealth tax.

"That rate is very modest by European standards and would have brought in €500m," he said.

The Laois/Offaly TD also suggested a reduction in public sector salaries.

Earlier, Environment Minister Phil Hogan criticised opposition TDs who have campaigned against the charge, accusing them of advocating lawbreaking.

He admitted there had been teething problems in the rollout of the 100 euro charge.

Some of the public has been left confused by the fact they are unable to make the payment at their local Post Office, while many have not yet received official Government information leaflets.

"But no matter what communication you do, people who don't want to pay a charge won't do so," said Mr Hogan.

The National Stadium was packed with several thousand opponents last Saturday and a second huge rally is expected to be staged at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Dublin this weekend.

A group of left-wing TDs, including People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett and Socialist party TD Joe Higgins have led a campaign against the household charge and are continuing to call on the public to refuse to pay.