Thomas Pringle, independent TD for Donegal South West, has challenged Minister of State Dinny McGinley, TD, to debate the government’s household, septic tank and water charges, but the minister of state has called the offer, “a red herring”.
Deputy Pringle issued the challenge on Monday night, at a meeting in Dungloe organised by the Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay campaign, which opposes the charges. Deputy Pringle was among the first Dáil deputies to announce that he would not register for or pay the charge.
Speaking before an audience of about 120 people, the Killybegs-based deputy called on the minister of state to debate the issue with him in a public forum, receiving applause from the crowd.
“I’d be happy to go to a meeting anywhere with him,” Deputy Pringle said.
Minister of State McGinley yesterday told the Democrat that he thought the offer was “a red herring”. He said he was open to meeting his constituents at any time to discuss any issues, and said that last Monday, during a clinic in his Gaoth Dobhair office, he met with a deputation from a local Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay campaign group.
“I find it very helpful for me, as a minister of state, to sit down with people and discuss these issues and explain where we’re coming from and listen to what they have to say,” he said. Minister of State McGinley said the deputation also gave him a petition which he has forwarded to the minister for the environment, and said he was at a meeting on Tuesday with the minister where the matters were discussed.
“All these things are taken on board,” said the minister of state for Gaeltacht affairs. He said he found those meetings with constituents often more productive than large public meetings, where, he said, “very often, very little is achieved”.
Minister of State McGinley said that if Deputy Pringle wanted to discuss any matters with him, he should “come across the road and I’m in my office here, and he’ll be facilitated at any time”. He said he could also arrange a meeting between the deputy and the minister.
But Deputy Pringle said yesterday that his offer for a debate in a public forum still stood.
“It’s his government’s policy, he’s a member of government and he should be able to come out and defend it publicly,” Deputy Pringle said. He said the minister of state “should have the courage of his convictions” and engage in a public debate on the issue.
“I would be more than happy to debate it with him anywhere,” the deputy said.
At Monday’s meeting in Dungloe, Deputy Pringle said the gap between the Ireland’s richest and poorest people grows each year, saying that a person on a €200,000 income pays 28 percent tax, while a person earning €40,000 pays 35 percent.
“It’s not a fair system and the way we can oppose it is not to sign up for the household taxes,” Deputy Pringle said. “Give us fairness, give us equity, and then come back and talk to us.”
A woman in the audience said she was concerned that her children might have to pay the penalties and fines imposed if she did not pay the charge.
“The point is, if we do nothing and sign up for the tax, our children are going to be paying for it anyway,” Deputy Pringle said. “So what we’re saying is build a fairer taxation system.”