A poster brandishing the face of Taoiseach Enda Kenny hung from the top table with a direct quote from him which read: “It is morally wrong, unjust and unfair to tax a person’s home.” And this set the scene for what was at times, a vociferous and frustration-fuelled public meeting held in Clonmel last Monday night.
Organised by the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG) and independent TD Seamus Healy who is part of the Non Payment Campaign, this was the first of three such meetings to take place in South Tipperary this week, urging people not to register for or pay the Household Charge of €100, and encouraging opposition to other charges and taxes that are coming down the line, including those relating to septic tanks, water and property.
Deputy Healy who, along with up to 17 other TDs, has vowed not to register for or pay the charge said that people power will drive the Non Payment Campaign and if people stand up and be counted it is possible to succeed.
The meeting was so well attended that organisers were required to move the crowd from a meeting room upstairs, to the main function room located to the rear of Hearns Hotel.
With a question-and-answer style format, the meeting allowed Deputy Healy to address and clarify many issues for people but it also revealed much about the public’s mood; the scare-mongering they feel is going on, their growing fear and anxiety because of these increased charges and taxes. The message became clear - those in attendance believed they had been duped by Fine Gael and Labour in the run up to the election and they were more than happy to take to the streets now and let their voices be heard. Non attendance of the public meeting by South Tipperary’s only Government TD Tom Hayes, or indeed any Government councillors did not go unnoticed by the crowd. And as many thumped their tables and applauded each other, it also became clear that there is a hunger in South Tipperary for protest and a public march on these issues is expected to take place quiet soon, with others supporting the possibility of further protest in the form of industrial action.
“The €100 household charge was brought in initially because it is a tried and trusted formula,” Deputy Healy said.
“Bring it in at a low level and increase it year-on-year. Next year there is talk about changing this to a property tax on homes and you can be sure that this will increase significantly, it is estimated in the region of €1,300 per annum, maybe more,” he said.
“Successful Governments want middle and low income people to pay for a recession that they had no hand or act in creating.”
He said that what they are seeking is a form of progressive taxation which will ensure that people who are very wealthy should pay their fair share and that is not happening currently,” said Deputy Healy.
Citing figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Deputy Healy said that in a two-year period, from 2009 to 2010, the wealthiest 5% of the population made an additional €46 billion in assets.
“This is in the teeth of a recession, when we are told that the country is broke, yet very wealthy people make an additional €46 billion in two years and they don’t pay a cent in wealth tax,” he said.
An old-age pensioner, speaking from the audience, said that the Government is asking her to pay a charge on a house that was given to her by her parents.
“I have no intention of paying this charge, they can’t put us all in jail,” she said.
“But everybody needs to get out onto the streets and fight.”
In relation to the €50 septic tank charge, Deputy Healy said that legislation has not yet been passed in the Dail, but he expected that this would be ‘forced’ through by the end of the month. In South Tipperary both Deputy Healy and his colleague, independent TD Mattie McGrath, are on the same page in relation to this - Deputy McGrath has also been campaigning against this charge.
People were advised to lobby all local TDs and councillors, particularly those from Government parties. Deputy Healy said they would approach the unions to seek support for members who wanted to partake in industrial action and he confirmed that the Non Payment Campaign will be involved in getting legal advice and supporting people who need legal advice going forward, if they choose to boycott the household and septic tank charge.
A Non Payment Campaign public meeting will take place in: Carrick-on-Suir tonight January 19 in the Carraig Hotel; and in Tipperary Town tomorrow night January 20, in the Community Services Centre.