Fine Gael TDs criticise Labour on Hogan stance

Thu, Mar 29, 2012, 01:00

LABOUR MINISTERS were last night criticised by Fine Gael TDs and Senators for not showing sufficient solidarity with Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan over the household tax.

At its parliamentary party meeting, several Fine Gael members said comments made by Labour Ministers in recent days had been unhelpful. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin were the subject of most criticism.

Mr Hogan gave an extensive briefing to colleagues on the progress on the campaign to get 1.6 million households to pay the €100 charge. He said he was confident there would be a late surge in payments. The meeting was described as muted with Mr Hogan’s stance winning widespread support from party colleagues.

“Nobody has criticised him publicly and many understand the difficulties involved, but some have complained about his handling privately,” said one TD who attended the meeting.

Mr Hogan said earlier he was not contemplating resignation in the event of the Government failing to convince a majority of households to register for the charge.

The Minister said yesterday he was confident the number of households registered would have passed the 500,000 mark by this morning. As of yesterday evening it had risen to 426,599, netting more than €42 million. A further 55,000 postal applications awaiting processing are not included in the figure. That is slightly over a quarter of the estimated 1.6 million households expected to register.

Mr Hogan repeated that there would be no change to the deadline and that those not paying by midnight on Saturday would face fines and interest.

Mr Hogan told Today FM’s The Last Word yesterday evening he was still confident of a big increase in uptake. “There are three days to go and there are 1.2 million forms in circulation. I don’t think they will all be lying around the kitchen table,” he said.

In a reference to those political parties who have fronted the anti-household tax campaign, he said that people “will not be listening to people advocating law-breaking who are law-makers themselves”.

Mr Hogan refused to be drawn on what he expected the overall number of registrations would be by Saturday.

When asked if he would resign if fewer than half the households registered, he replied: “Seeing that I’m the first Minister to bring in a new tax without a proper household tax database, I’ll be sure that I’ll bring it in as best as I can and I will not be contemplating resignation.”

The group of nine TDs that has led the campaign against the tax contended yesterday that taxpayers had clearly rejected further impositions. Joe Higgins said the Coalition had encountered a massive and unprecedented boycott which extended from Donegal to Wexford, from Kerry to Dundalk.

The High Court has struck out a challenge to the household charge brought on grounds the legislation implementing the charge had not been published in Irish.

Thomas Brabazon, Ascaill na Teile, Ráth Eanaigh, Baile Átha Cliath, had brought the case.