Opposition to the proposed new Household Tax and Septic Tank Registration charge is continuing to build across County Donegal, with 120 people attending the meeting in Ballintra Community Centre last Friday night.
Thomas Pringle TD and Councillor John Campbell addressed the crowd and there was a unanimous show of hands in support of non-payment of the proposed new charges by those in attendance. The overall message from the meeting was, ‘don’t pay until a fair system is put in place.’
Thomas Pringle spoke first and briefly outlined why he is calling on a massive mobilisation of non-payment to the proposed charges. He then went on to talk about the septic tank registration and inspection and was extremely critical of the Government’s inability to inform the public what kind of environmental standards the local authority inspectors will be ordering owners to comply with.
He said, “The Minister has recently begun making reference to 2009 EPA standards, which are the highest standard of environmental compliance. Cavan County Council have had a registration system in place since 2004 with much lower standards and 1 in 4 septic tanks failed inspections.
“This cost owners an average of between €2,000 and €4,000 to rectify. In some cases it has cost people €12,000 to build a new septic tank system and under new EPA standards, people may have to buy extra land to meet new requirements.”
Mr Pringle also pointed out that the Government has made no provision for grant aid in the event that people need to upgrade their septic tanks and don’t have the financial means to do so.
Mr Pringle then outlined his opposition to the Household Tax and reminded those present that despite the Government’s pressure tactics, 90% of householders still haven’t paid the €100. He outlined what will happen if people don’t pay the €100 and explained how the campaign plans to provide legal protection and support for those brought before the courts and ordered to pay a fine of between €1,000 and €2,000.
Mr Pringle doubted the court’s ability to process so many people for non payment if there is mass mobilisation against the charge and added that the combined charges may be more than the fine in a few year’s time if the Government and IMF have their way.
His finishing address was clear and direct, “Why are ordinary people expected to take the bulk of the debt burden? Everyone should contribute according to their means.”
Thomas Pringle received a resounding round of applause before Councillor Campbell rose to speak.
“It’s time to stand together”, he began, “and send a clear message to the Government - enough is enough. This campaign is simple and direct. Don’t register and don’t pay. €100 might sound manageable now but what will the cost be in 3 to 4 years time?
“When the people stand together - the power lies with the people.”
John Campbell then proceeded to criticise the Government for what he called, its bully boy - fear tactics, in trying to pressure law abiding citizens to comply.
“A woman at a meeting in Killybegs came up to me recently and said, ‘I’ve paid my bills on time all through my life John, what am I expected to do when this bill comes through the letter box?’
“It’s time to look at the bigger picture. People are understandably angry which is why we need to stick together on this one.”
Councillor Campbell was up front in outlining the fines and court appearance that may follow those who refuse to pay but questioned the Government and County Council’s ability to deal with mass non payment.
“To take everybody at the meeting here tonight to court would cost €75,000 and that’s money they simply don’t have.”
He also stated that people will not get a criminal record for non payment and this was another form of scaremongering. In relation to the septic tank controversy, John pointed out that the initial charge was for €300, but due to opposition pressure it was recently reduced from €50 to €5.
“The Government are clearly on the back foot now. If septic tanks are to be upgraded, they should be funded by grand aid through taxation as is done elsewhere.”
Councillor Campbell also deconstructed the argument that the monies collected will go into providing local services.
“As a County Councillor, I know that the Council budget has already been drawn up. Most of the money collected will go directly to the IMF to pay down debt. The main goal of the IMF is to privatise our forests, energy and even water.
“If we register for these taxes we are signing up for an agenda of profiteering and privatisation on behalf of a minority of wealthy shareholders.”
Councillor Campbell’s speech was also greeted with loud applause and both he and Thomas Pringle then engaged in a question and answers session from the floor.
After the meeting almost everyone present queued up to pay a €5 membership fee in support of the campaign for mass non payment.
There was also support for attending a protest rally on Saturday 24th March in support of the campaign.