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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Taoiseach ignores threat of €100 household charge boycott

Lyndsey Telford

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has ignored threats of a potential mass boycott over the €100 household charge the Government is to impose in the New Year.

Mr Kenny defended the tax, which works out at €2 week, even though it could see householders fined up to €2,500 if they fail to register before the March 31 deadline.

"This is a charge of two euro per week and it's going to be used for very vital services in each area around the country," said Mr Kenny.

But Independent TD Joe Higgins warned of a mass boycott, saying there is a huge campaign calling on Ireland's 1.6 million householders to refuse to pay the charge.

"This is their opportunity to have their own referendum on these erroneous austerity policies," said Mr Higgins.

"Do you know that the attitude of the people out there is if you bring one to court on March 31, they will all go?"

Independent TD Thomas Pringle has already refused to pay the household charge and has called on other TDs to follow his lead.

He described it as a tax too far and revealed the vast majority of people in his constituency of Donegal have claimed they will not pay what they have described as the unfair charge.

"This is an opportunity for the Irish people to have their say," Mr Pringle told RTE.

"I think it's a legitimate form of protest for people to exercise their right not to register for this tax."

The Taoiseach said the charge is expected to raise €1.6bn, which will go towards funding local authorities, including fire services, library services and water.

He also pointed out there will be a number of people exempt from the charge, including those on social welfare, people living in so-called ghost estates, and tenants in local authority housing.

"This money will go to fund services for your area and for every other area around the country, like fire services and libraries and street cleaning," said Mr Kenny.

"These things are all funded by the exchequer up until now and it's necessary that citizens understand that they can make a contribution of two euro per week."

But Mr Higgins said the Government should take two million from the 1.2 billion euro it intends to pay to unsecured bondholders in January and use that for funding instead of taxing the people further.

He described the household charge as a disgraceful new burden on ordinary people.

"Do you have any idea, Taoiseach, of how angry and frustrated and outraged our people have become over the last three years as their wages have been slashed, as their services have been slashed, health slashed, education slashed and our society hollowed out?" he demanded.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams called on the Government to appoint a minister for housing to tackle homelessness.

The Co Louth TD told the Taoiseach there are 5,000 people across Ireland without a home, while 3,000 houses and apartments lie empty.

"Do you not take the homeless and housing crisis seriously? And if so, when will you appoint a housing minister?" he asked.

"These are citizens. No one is homeless by choice. No one is sleeping rough by choice. There are 5,000 citizens without a home. There are 200 sleeping rough."

Mr Kenny said the Government was well aware of the nature of the problem and is doing what it can to alleviate the situation.

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