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Ahern's solution? Taxing us for using hole-in-the-wall machines

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern's plan for a new tax on ATMs has been slammed as "hare-brained" and "farcical" by his Dail colleagues.

The minister was blasted today for suggesting that tiger raids could be stopped by taxing ATM transactions -- at a time when cash is in woefully short supply.

The astonishing plan would take money out of circulation at a time when the country is struggling to emerge from the worst recession ever.

Mr Ahern's lust for a 'plastic society' could also force hard-pressed families to rely on credit cards, plunging them into more debt. In a bizarre statement, the Justice boss claimed that there is too much cash "swirling around".

His comments after the traumatic kidnapping of a Dublin bank official and her husband were today described as "disgraceful".

Consumer advocates, opposition politicians and bank representatives were all lining up to criticise the minister's plan to tax his way out of the problem. The Government has already hit the public with a raft of new taxes since the economic collapse and are even openly discussing ways of taxing water and homes.

And instead of promising extra resources or stronger protection for bank employees at danger of tiger raids, Mr Ahern claimed last night that he could tax his way out of the problem.

"We're not as cashless a society as most of our EU colleagues. If you go to other countries in Europe you'll find there's less cash swirling around the place than there is in Ireland, in proportions," he said.

"We're the only country in Europe that doesn't charge for money coming out of the hole in the wall, and that is something that will have to be looked at."

It was later suggested that the introduction of an ATM charge would be offset by abolishing the €10 annual levy for laser cards.

However, Fine Gael Michael Ring blasted the idea today saying that the minister has "some cheek to fly a kite on a proposed charge for the use of ATMs just hours after yet another bank official and his wife have been put through hell by heartless criminals".

The Irish Banking Federation said it was clueless about the plan and the Irish Bank Officials Association said Mr Ahern should be protecting its members in their homes.