Protesters heckle Hogan over household charge


PROTESTERS HECKLED the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan over the introduction of the household charge at a function in his constituency last night.

Mr Hogan was due to officially launch the Carlow museum at an open air event in the grounds outside the facility, but protesters, cordoned off by up to 20 gardaí, surrounded the area, forcing organisers to move the speeches indoors at the nearby Carlow Cathedral.

Gardaí estimated that between 100 and 150 protesters were present.They travelled from across the southeast to attend the rally.

Mr Hogan said he had always predicated the silent majority would comply with the law and pay the charge.

He said that 57 per cent of people had now complied.

This, he argued, was a success given that originally “a lot predicted only 25 per cent of people would pay”.

Of those who had not yet paid, he said: There will always be people who will seek to break the law.

“People will be brought to court by their local authority and they will have to pay this one way or another.

One man who travelled from Wexford for the protest said: “We came up here from Wexford – we will go anywhere ... I’m not paying, I’ll go to jail for this.”

A Co Carlow man was escorted out of the cathedral by gardaí when he began to heckle Mr Hogan as he delivered his speech.

Thanking gardaí during his speech, Mr Hogan said: “I didn’t think I’d ever have that many people looking after me” before adding: “It’s great to see so many people can’t get in.”

Addressing the situation outside, the Minister told the crowd: “I respect people’s right to protest but people should respect, in a democratic society, that I have a right to speak as well.”

He continued: “We are in a deep, difficult situation as a county … we don’t shout about it, we do something about it.”

Mr Hogan continued: “I understand better than anybody that people are under pressure” but he pointed out that the Government was “asking people to make a modest contribution” so that taxes would not have to be increased in future budgets.

Some of the protesters who attempted to hit the Minister’s car with their placards as he left the grounds of the cathedral were held back by gardaí.

As people who attended the museum opening left they were jeered and heckled by the crowd.

Cathaoirleach of Carlow Town Council Tom O’Neill, who spoke at the museum launch, said the protesters were “a disgrace”.

“The majority of people there were very disappointed with the protesters. They lost a lot of respect,” he said.

“People have a right to protest but it was unbelievable, it was a disgrace the language used by some of them, especially when there was young children around.

“We were very disappointed.People have a right to protest but this was a good news story … we were disappointed they chose today.

“They were so loud and their language left a lot to be desired … they were a disgrace.”

To date some 891,201 property owners have registered to pay or have paid the new household charge.

The number of property owners registering or paying the charge has slowed to just over 1,000 per day since the March 31st deadline, according to tallies from the Local Government Management Agency.

More than 11,000 of payments have been made since the March 31st deadline and these have incurred penalties of €10 plus €1 in interest.

Meanwhile Mr Hogan insisted he would not be making any further statement on his controversial meeting with Independent TD Michael Lowry.

He refused to be drawn on his meeting with the Tipperary TD in March 2011, just days after the Moriarty Tribunal issued its report.

Mr Hogan said he had “issued a statement” on the matter which “speaks for itself”.