Following the introduction of the household charge on Jan. 1st, Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay campaigners intend to make January a month of protest with meetings in Ballybofey, Arranmore, Inver, Letterkenny, Newtoncunningham, Fintown, Buncrana, Dungloe, Ballyshannon and Milford.
The first meeting takes place in Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey, at 8 pm on Monday, Jan. 9th, and will be addressed by Thomas Pringle, independent TD for Donegal South West, and Liam Whyte of the campaign steering committee.
Campaigners are urging homeowners not to register for the household charge, arguing that the money will be applied to bank bail-outs and not to local services. Householders have until the end of March to register for the charge.
The government have “put out a lot of suggestions into the media that they can take this money out of people’s benefits, out of wages -- particularly wages of public sector workers. But there’s no legal basis for that,” said Francis McCafferty, a member of the campaign’s steering committee. “The legislation that they rushed through the Dáil in December didn’t make any kind of provision for that, and unless they bring in further legislation they won’t be able to do that.”
In the same way, he said, the government does not have the authority to attach the charges to ESB bills.
Any legislation that would give the government the authority to dock pay or entitlements “would obviously face huge opposition, so a lot of this is scare tactics,” Mr. McCafferty said.
The upcoming meetings stemmed from a Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay meeting on Dec. 30th that drew representatives from different parts of the county who wanted to organise meetings in their own localities, Mr. McCafferty said.
Referring to the government’s proposed fines of up to €2,500 for non-payment, Mr. McCafferty said that while the government came to power on a promise to “burn the bondholders”, they have instead decided to burn ordinary people. He said that this month the government will pay unsecured bond holders more than €1.2 billion, calling it “a direct betrayal” of government election pledges.
Campaigners also refute the government argument that the revenue will be used for local services.
“We know from the county council budget meeting in December that there’s a hole in the finances and depending on what you read it’s anything between 5 and 8 million euro, and that’s before the impact of these charges,” Mr. McCafferty said. Local Government Grants to local authorities will be reduced by the amount of money raised by household charges locally.
Mr. McCafferty said that was one of the reasons the Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay campaign took its protest to County House last month on the day of the council budget meeting.
“We wanted to remind councillors that they shouldn’t rely on any income they might get from the household charges because people won’t be paying it,” he said. “They need to realise that any deficit could be worse if they’re relying on these charges.”