Thousands protest against household charge


ABOUT 5,000 vehement, loud and persistent demonstrators rallied outside the Fine Gael ardfheis, protesting against the €100 household charge.

Kept back from the convention centre in the Dublin docklands by barriers and gardaí, demonstrators held up placards with a range of messages: “No tax on my jax”; “When the bankers pay we will pay”; “Enda 1994: This is a vampire tax. Well suck up, no, no, no”; “Póg mo Hogan”; and “Final reminder: no way Hogay.”

At times chanting “can’t pay, won’t pay” and “out, out out”, some protesters shouted “shame on you” as Fine Gael delegates tried to get past the demonstration and into the convention centre.

Kilkenny councillor Billy Ireland said he was kicked and hit in the ribs. Another woman said “we have a right not to be pushed and shoved and manhandled trying to get in there. Only for that guard saw me, I was on the ground.”

A man who looked like Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan was jostled and pushed to the ground by a small group of protesters, some carrying Éirígí anti-charge posters. The man said repeatedly, “I’m not Phil Hogan, they’ve got the wrong guy.”

He was helped into a Garda car which was rocked by some protesters before it moved away.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins, Socialist Cllr Ruth Coppinger and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett addressed the rally. Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan also attended.

Almost 25 others also spoke, including Liz Feighan from Cork, who read an open letter to the Taoiseach: “€100 might not mean much to you but to me it’s five weeks’ electricity bill or a week’s grocery bill. I used to go to one supermarket, now I’ve got to go to four. Every cent . . . counts.”

Oliver Nolan, who is homeless, said: “We’re conditioned to be more scared of the homeless man on the street than the man in the suit, and yet the suits are the ones that robbed us blind.”

The household charge wasn’t the main issue for a number of people. Denis Scannell, from Listowel, Co Kerry, said: “I’m a farmer and they’re stopping me cutting turf. I might have paid the household charge only for that.

“I think the people in Ireland kneeled down too long. We had to come out when we see what’s going on at the top – the Mahon tribunal coming out with ‘He didn’t tell lies, he told untruths’.”

Sheila Byrne from Malahide said, “I’m here because I want answers on Leas Cross as well.” She felt nobody was held accountable in relation to what happened in the Dublin nursing home, which was subsequently closeddown. Her father died there.

Breda Fitzpatrick from Malahide Road, Dublin, said: “I paid €37,000 in stamp duty seven years ago and I had to take out a separate loan for that, and I’m not paying another €100.”

At the ardfheis, Mr Hogan said, “I’ve tried my best to reflect the difficulties that people are going through; the vulnerable people and people that are on mortgages by exempting people on mortgage supplement.

“Nobody wants to be imposing a tax at a time of austerity, but we are where we are in terms of the agreements that we’ve entered into in order to draw down the money for local services.”