TV licence is ‘an outdated charge that belongs to a different time’, Taoiseach tells Dáil

More than 13,000 summonses for failure to pay TV licence issued last year, with Varadkar saying he would like a new system for funding public service broadcasting in place by 2025

The TV licence is “an outdated charge that belongs to a different time”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

He told the Dáil on Tuesday that he was keen for the Government to agree on a new mechanism to fund public service broadcasting this year and to have that in place by 2025.

Mr Varadkar was responding to People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who said more than 13,000 people had been taken to court last year for failing to buy a TV licence for €160.

Mr Murphy said there was “now a majority of eligible people refusing to pay the TV licence” and that it was “an unjust, regressive tax” and the charge applied to the richest and poorest families in the country.


The Dublin South-West TD pointed to reports in the Sunday Independent over the weekend that the Taoiseach was in favour of scrapping the tax and replacing it with direct exchequer funding.

Mr Murphy said the State had to stop “dragging people through court for refusing to pay this unjust tax and there needs to be a commitment to scrap the TV licence”.

In response, the Fine Gael leader said the law was clear and that people had to pay the TV licence.

Mr Varadkar said he would encourage people to pay the TV licence not just because it was the law, but because it funded public service broadcasting and that it didn’t “all go to RTÉ”.

“Having said that, I think it is an outdated charge that belongs to a different time,” he said.

“I’m keen that we should agree this year on a new mechanism to fund public service broadcasting, provide for that this year and have it in place for 2025.”

There was no big increase in the number of court summonses issued to people for failure to pay their TV licence last year, preliminary figures have shown.

An Post, which manages the licence inspection system, applied for 13,137 summonses to bring people to court for failure to pay the licence, between January 1st and November 30th last year.

This compared to 14,915 summonses sought for court hearings over households’ failure to pay the €160 licence over the course of 2022. While figures for the final month of last year were not yet available, the rates of court summonses issued remained largely the same between 2022 and 2023.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times