Thousands expected to join household charge protest

Thousands are expected to gather outside the Fine Gael Ard Fheis this afternoon, calling on the Government to scrap the €100 household tax.

The Socialist Party, which is a part of the anti-household charge campaign, is accusing the Government of exaggerating the registration figures, in order to put a positive spin on what it says is a "mass boycott".

Socialist TD Joe Higgins said those who don't pay should not be put off by what he describes as the Government's "empty threats."

"The fact is that there is a massive boycott of the household tax because ordinary people see it correctly as the introduction of a new tier of parallel taxation that can quickly go to €1,000 per year and beyond - an intolerable burden," Deputy Higgins said.

"They are also protesting against the disastrous effects of the bailout of the financial markets system that has wrecked their living standards, hugely damaged public services and deeply depressed the domestic economy with horrific unemployment and forced emigration.

"The huge opposition amounts to a powerful demand for a new policy to replace discredited austerity."

Protesters will gather at Parnell Square at 1pm today before marching to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis.

As of 8pm last night the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), the body tasked with collecting the tax, said some 528,876 households had paid up.

Around 91,000 more postal applications were awaiting processing, while over 11,000 properties were registered for a waiver.

However Deputy Higgins accused the Government of "furiously spinning" the registration figures.

"One third have registered and two thirds have not," he said.

"This is the only honest way to report the current situation."

Meanwhile Justice Minister Alan Shatter left the Government open to further accusations of arrogance last night by saying those opposed to the tax who planned to protest at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis today should "get a life".

As he arrived at the gathering last night, Mr Shatter warned: "If you don’t pay it, you can be brought before the courts and fined."

He strongly criticised Sinn Féin and Independent TDs who are opposing the charge. "I think Sinn Féin and the promised protesters for tomorrow should just get a life."

10am update: Officials said that as of 10am this morning, 650,068 householders had registered their properties.

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